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Thursday, July 5, 2018

No Progress in Family Health Team Strike

Owen Sound | by Matt Hermiz  

OPSEU members, doctors still haven't bargained in the six weeks since strike began

Six weeks after unionized workers walked off the job at the Owen Sound Family Health Team, collective bargaining remains at a standstill.

Ontario Public Service Employees Union Regional VP Lucy Morton tells Bayshore Broadcasting News the doctors who own the Owen Sound Family Health Organization (OSFHO) have not come back to the table after workers rejected a three-year contract proposal that offered an annual one per cent raise, but clawed back pension contributions.

Some 30 nursing, clerical and custodial workers have been on the picket lines since May 22.

OPSEU spokesperson David Cox says the OSFHO is privately owned by 22 doctors.

A statement from the OSFHO calls the Union's proposal out of alignment with financial realities, highlighting the fact the OSFHO and union negotiators had reached terms on a new agreement prior to the strike that was rejected by workers.

"The OSFHO remains convinced that the agreement that was concluded between the committees was reasonable," the statement reads.

It goes on to say the OSFHO also raised its offer to include salary increases to some employees of up to five per cent, while conceding some tradeoffs were required in pension contributions currently solely funded by the employer.

"The union's latest position still represents a wage increase which would average 10.7% in the first year alone," the OSFHO statement explains. "That increase does not account for the costs of the other improvements that the union already achieved in collective bargaining."

Today, picketers were pacing the sidewalk in front of the entrance to the FHT building, causing brief hold-ups for vehicles entering and exiting.

Morton says they're just trying to get doctors to respect the bargaining process and negotiate.

She says some doctors at the OSFHO have resorted to using derogatory words, bullying and harassment while encountering striking workers outside the Family Health Team building.

"I think everybody in this particular community would be shocked that these so-called professionals would use words like this," Morton says. "There has been a history of feeling abused and harassed by (members) from the doctors and their staff above. This supports that."

A 2016 survey by OPSEU found a staggering 94% of workers at the OSFHO reported "feeling very stressed" and nearly two-thirds of employees feeling they were being bullied or harassed.

While fighting back tears, one striking employee who asked not to be named out of fear of retaliation, says there's a longstanding history of harassment at the workplace.

"This has been going on for a long time," she says. "Approximately 70 staff have quit over the past 10 years, that's an average of 10 per year."

"That's ridiculous and it speaks to a huge problem here."

A call to OSFHO executive director Karen Smith for comment went unanswered by deadline.

One of the striking staff members, Tina Roscoe, says they remain committed to ensuring they get a fair collective agreement.

"We are out here until the end," Roscoe says. "All we want to do is get them to come back to the table and talk to us.

"And they are not," continues Roscoe. "So, we're going to stick it out until we come to some sort of agreement."
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