A letter from your President
Hello OPSEU Local 217 members, I hope you all have been keeping well. The union will be having our next General Membership Meeting November 16th, 2023 at 6pm located at the Royal Canadian Legion 5603 Spring Street, Niagara Falls, ON. L2G 1P7. We will be electing one Trustee and providing updates. Updates will include: the mediated settlement for last year’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Bargaining updates, Joint Job Evaluation Committee progress and answering questions and concerns. Your local executive committee looks forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the meeting.
As the tourism season draws to an end and slows down for the shoulder months at the Niagara Parks, I would like to thank the membership for all the hard work and dedication that you have put forward to fulfill your duties as a unionized worker. The past few years have definitely been tough for all of us, now that we have completed a full year out of COVID clearly the park was busy and a typical tourist year for our area. For those of you that have stayed with the park and the union your dedication and work ethic has not gone unnoticed. From being short staffed, working long hours and covering for other areas that may not typically be part of your regular work duties, I personally thank you. For our longer standing members you may have noticed an influx of new faces in the work force, for perspective almost 50% of the membership was hired in this season alone! With that in mind the seasoned veterans of the membership have been looked upon to carry more of a work load and have been asked to take the time to show and train new employees the daily operations, our skill sets are an essential part of keeping the Niagara Parks operational and the Park needs to know it.
Conveniently we just happen to be going into a new contact round of bargaining. Right now we are without a contract as the previously contract ended October 31st, 2023. The buzz is in the air and word is starting to spread, which is usual for this time in membership business. The elected Bargaining team has listened and we have heard from almost every member. With Doug Fords Bill 124 behind us, now more than ever is the time for an increase in all of our wages. During bargaining and throughout the negotiating process the team will be pushing for the demands that were brought forward. The retro pay increase from the last two years due to Bill 124 and the future wage increases will be the forefront of our negotiating.
The Bargaining team will do its best to present the membership with the best possible contract after reaching an agreement to bring to the ratification vote; we do not look to go on strike. However in the event that a strike is the only way to get the point across, members are entitled to strike pay. I will try to sum up in brief what a strike would mean for you the member:
Strike pay is provided to members who complete strike-related duties assigned by the Local Strike Committee. ONLY SIGNED UP MEMBERS are eligible to receive strike pay. So please, now fill out a membership application if you haven’t already done so. During weeks one to three, each member is entitled to strike pay of $250 per week plus $55 per week, per dependent. The daily rate is $50 per day and $11 per day, per dependent. During the fourth week, strike pay increases and each member is entitled to $350 per week (or $70 per day). Dependent pay remains the same at $55 per week, per dependent.
Strike duties include picketing, running strike headquarters or handing out information to name a few. If you are laid off at the time you still can participate.
Negotiating may or may not be tough; the park doesn’t hand out pay increases lightly being an agency of the Ontario Conservative Government. As I just stated the strike pay is clearly not the best, I highly recommend saving now in the event that we do end up going on strike, be prepared just in case. While the notion of a strike sounds great, which again it may come down to in order to get our point across not only to the park but also the Ontario Government. Some members may not be able to have strike as an option. This is why we always stress the importance of coming out and voting, we only need 5% of the membership to make quorum and in our case its about 32 members that could potentially decide the outcome of a strike vote.
Please do not take this as a deterrent but I have to be as transparent as possible. In the event of a strike a member will not make as much money as bringing home a pay check, you will not be contributing to your pension thus pushing back your retirement date and lastly seasonal and pat-time members may not have enough hours to qualify for E.I. benefits because of a shortened season. Strikes do show strength and solidarity to the employer, so sticking together, showing up to meetings and most importantly voting are essential to the union body.
The union Bargaining Team will consist of Tom Churney, Mike Goforth, Colin Mackenzie, Nick Bye, Crispin Bottomley and our OPSEU staff representative Sabrina DeGirolamo with the alternate being Desiree Constantinides. We will not know the employers team until the first day of bargaining. The anticipated start date for bargaining is sometime in January. Although our contract has officially ended we are still using that contracts language. The contract can be found on our opseu217.org website on the homepage under New Contract. We always encourage updating your personal email addresses for correspondence reasons. Along with sending out emails to you we also use our website and our opseu 217 facebook page, please check the website and I welcome everyone to join our facebook page to engage in the conversation.
See you at the General membership meeting, Tom Churney President, OPSEU Local 217