OPSEU workers try to confront minister
TIM WIECLAWSKI/METRO OTTAWA
Tim Wieclawski/Metro Ottawa
It’s about the money, but it’s not just about the money.
More than 200 noisy developmental services workers from southwestern Ontario came to Ottawa yesterday to demand that Ottawa-Vanier MPP Madeleine Meilleur — who is Ontario’s community and social services minister — move to end a strike that has kept them off the job for more than four weeks and has deprived some of the province’s neediest people of help.
According to Denise Sands, president of OPSEU Local 144, the four striking unions representing 1,000 workers took action because a two-per-cent wage increase over the next four years is insufficient to fix the problems facing their industry, adding that sub-par wages have put the entire Developmental Services sector in jeopardy.
“It’s about saving a sector that has been virtually ignored for 10 to 15 years,” she said. “The challenges that the employers face with hiring and retention is phenomenal. Young people are not choosing this as a career option.”
Meilleur was not in Ottawa yesterday to see the protest, which union member Kerry Handsor called “a little disappointing.
“But if members are going to run, that’s okay. We’ll keep chasing them,” said Handsor.
Meilleur, speaking from Toronto where she was attending meetings, said the government has acknowledged a funding gap in the sector and has already committed $500 million to developmental services since taking power.
“We can not repair, in one mandate, the severe under funding from previous governments,” she told Metro.
The labour agreement that the four unions have gone on strike over has already been accepted by 38 other agencies, she said.
Meilleur said wage negotiations are a matter between the employer and the union.
However, Sands said since the provincial government is determining the funding for the agencies, they indirectly determine employee wages.
more money, more people