Woodstock child and youth services staff could strike over benefits

The 40 employees at Welkin Child and Youth Services in Woodstock, Ont. have voted to take strike action if they can’t reach a new collective agreement by Dec. 5, 2018.

In a news release, the employees’ union, Unifor Local 302, said new management at Welkin has tabled concessions to certain benefits, specifically eliminating vision care, reductions to vacation and sick leave entitlements, cuts to registered retirement savings plan contributions, as well as a three-year wage freeze.

“Our members are extremely dedicated to the work they do, providing a critical social service for children and youth who could be dealing with suicidal thoughts, addiction, abusive homes or struggling with their sexuality,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor national president, in the release. “They cannot be expected to put up with the multiple, outrageous concessions this employer has proposed.”

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The last collective agreement expired in March 2018. The union and employer will meet with a conciliator on Dec. 3, 2018, to negotiate.

“It is extremely rare for health-care units such as ours to go on strike and we hope it doesn’t come to that,” said Nancy McMurphy, president of Unifor Local 302. “The membership are extremely dedicated to their clients and their needs so this is certainly a challenging time for them.”

Welkin isn’t part of Ontario’s Hospital Labour Disputes Arbitration Act, which prevents essential service providers from striking.

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