"After demanding an unreasonable and unnecessary strike deadline extension, Ms. Davis walked away from the table, indicating with high-handed arrogance that they would take their “sweet time” in considering the union’s offer, effectively forcing the workers onto the picket line." — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU/SEFPO President
Toronto (06 July 2021) — The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/SEFPO/NUPGE) says negotiations with Black Creek Community Health Centre have been derailed because the facility’s Executive Director is trying to bully striking front-line workers into submission.
Liveable wages and decent working conditions at heart of strike
OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says Cheryl Prescod is refusing to come back to the table to bargain a fair collective agreement because she is hoping to frustrate her workers on the picket line, so they’ll give up and accept zero wage increases.
“Cheryl Prescod jumps at any opportunity to get into the media to portray herself as the reason Black Creek Community Health Centre brings value to the community, but I’ve never heard her acknowledge that front-line workers are the ones who deserve all the credit,” said Thomas. “Black Creek’s workers deserve respect and all she wants to do is try to break their spirit because they are fighting for a liveable wage and decent working conditions — it’s shameful.”
The 70 striking health care workers represented by OPSEU/SEFPO have been on the picket line since June 14.
Workers face intimidation and antagonism on the picket line by management
OPSEU/SEFPO Local 5117 President and Bargaining Team Chair, Mahnaz Pourahmadi, said that since the strike began, the Executive Director hired security guards to intimidate and antagonize the workers who are peacefully protesting. The police have also been called numerous times to discourage the picketing workers.
“In a community that already has a historically tense relationship with police encounters and over-surveillancing, Ms. Prescod’s actions are creating an environment of fear both inside and outside of the community health centre,” said Pourahmadi. “We have been working non-stop during this pandemic, and now we feel disrespected and undervalued by how Black Creek’s management is treating us.”
Letter to Board of Directors urges more guidance to representatives to end strike
Prescod is not the only player intent on keeping this strike going. In a letter to the Black Creek Board of Directors, Thomas said, "We believe strongly that the employer’s legal counsel, and more specifically their lawyer Ms. Davis, is preventing the parties from reaching an agreement that would end the strike."
The letter continued, "Prior to the strike, the union provided a very reasonable offer in hopes of achieving a settlement. However, after demanding an unreasonable and unnecessary strike deadline extension, Ms. Davis walked away from the table, indicating with high-handed arrogance that they would take their “sweet time” in considering the union’s offer, effectively forcing the workers onto the picket line."
Stop the bullying, negotiate a fair deal
Even after it was confirmed by the union and Prescod that a 1% raise was possible, the employer representatives have not returned to the table.
"Following the union’s outreach to the Ministry of Health — the Centre’s funder — it was made clear that funding would be available to cover a 1% wage increase. Yet, despite this assurance, the employer’s legal counsel has failed to act accordingly at the bargaining table, insisting they don’t have the money and that the government’s commitment cannot be trusted," Thomas wrote.
"This absurd conjecture, and the ongoing lack of transparency, only serves to undermine labour relations, the bargaining process, and the entire Black Creek, Jane and Finch community."
“It didn’t take Ms. Prescod this long to decide on hefty pay raises for herself and her executive team that are far more than anything we’ve asked for.” said Thomas. “If she truly cared about the well-being of the community, she would get back to the bargaining table instead of trying to bully Black Creek’s front-line health care workers.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE