Sisters and Brothers the situation is dire, we are all in for tough bargaining as governments and employers launch an all-out war on working families. We all need to prepare ourselves for the coming battle.
Chris, Smokey and Dave
Strike-breaker?, County hiring to replace striking Ontario Works employees
Posted Jul 19, 2012 By Derek Dunn
The move to hire replacement workers, or scabs as they are called in union circles, is typically seen by labour dispute experts as an indication of a prolonged labour disruption. Renfrew county director of social services Dave Anderson won’t speculate on how long the 10-week strike will last, but made it clear that CUPE local 4989 is responsible for its own destiny.
“We made them a settlement offer and they turned it down,” said Anderson. “I have a service to deliver and it’s our intention to deliver it.”
There are no talks scheduled between the county and the 22 workers who provide social assistance to about 1,100 people. CUPE negotiator Amy Parker did not return repeated calls for an interview. But in a July 16 press release she attempted “to clarify the record” over apparent comments made by county Coun. Peter Emon. Parker insists there was no deal in place last week.
“What happened, in fact, was the county presented us with what they called their ‘final offer’, and demanded we take it to the members for a vote,” Parker said.
“CUPE 4989 never had an agreement with the County of Renfrew, save and except for an agreement to take their offer back to the members for a vote. We warned them that their offer would not be accepted by the members. We were not listened to.”
However, Emon denies having said a deal was signed, adding that the final offer of 12 per cent wage hikes over five years was a good one. “I think the offer was reasonable,” Emon said. “I hope negotiations restart because they provide a valuable service.”
Emon is a social worker as well as mayor of Greater Madawaska. He is in touch with some of the county’s clients, and hasn’t heard of anyone suffering because of the strike.
The union maintains wages are not the sticking point, it’s the roll-back in long term disability benefits that matter most.
In exchange for the about 2 per cent annual pay increase, the employees – who are paid between $38,000 and $43,000 or $52,000 and $59,000 annually – would have the benefits rolled back from 100 per cent employer-pay in year one of the five-year contract to 100 per cent employee-pay in year five. The union counters by saying other non-union county employees get benefits paid by the employer in full, and that it wants to keep the status quo.
Anderson said non-union staff are paid less, hence the benefits package is in place for attraction and retention purposes.
The union points to wage increases for councillors and others at the county for a reason why their members should get one. Anderson said they are two different sets of circumstances, and that pointing to non-union wage increases is “a typical CUPE strategy.”
Parker blames the county for why talks haven’t resumed.
“Immediately after our members rejected the county’s last offer, we informed their negotiators that we were available to bargain a fair settlement,” Parker said. “Instead of offering us bargaining dates, they have taken out help-wanted ads in local newspapers.”
Anderson said the best offer is in the past.
“The union was advised that if they failed to ratify, the employer would withdraw this entire proposal and any future deal would be far less.” He said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the union membership’s response.
“It’s frustrating … we thought it was pretty good or we wouldn’t have offered it,” he added. “Obviously we’d like to see our employees back to work.”
The collective agreement between the county and CUPE expired Dec. 31, 2011.
The job postings are advertised in several area newspapers this week, including the Arnprior Chronicle Guide EMC. The advertisements make it clear the hirings are for contract positions, not necessarily permanent, and that workers will have to cross a picket line. The County has indicated it received a large number of responses to the notices earlier this week in north end newspapers.