Following the annual Labour Day Parade in Port Elgin (Saugeen Shores), where some 2,000 union members and retirees marched, an open BBQ was held for the community at the Unifor Family Education Centre.
The ‘great’ hall was filled to capacity as paraders and members of the community enjoyed burgers, hotdogs and the many salads and desserts.
Mayor Mike Smith welcomed the out-of-town and out-of-province members to Saugeen Shores as one of his last official duties before the upcoming Election and his last to Unifor as he is set to retire and, after three terms as Mayor and many years on Council, has decided not to run again.
“I know everybody here has the same common theme,” said Smith. “To make our communities better for our families and all out citizens. I remember when this facility was built and it has become a great asset to our community.”
Among the guest speakers was Becky Richardson of OPSEU Local 276 in Owen Sound who, along with her co-workers are currently on strike at the Family Health Team Medical Clinic, that is owned by 22 doctors.
“This has been a battle,” says Richardson, “and the strike line has become dangerous. We have had drive-by obscenities hurled at us and one person had to go to Emergency with a broken foot run over by a vehicle. We have to thank union members coming out support because it made us realize we are not in this fight alone. We have also had support from many in the community.”
Approximately 30 nurses, receptionists, and custodians at the Clinic have been on strike for 104 days over what the union members say are low wages and unfair working conditions that prevent them from providing quality service and care to thousands of people and families.
Local 276 members say they haven’t had a wage increase since 2014 and aren’t being paid equally for doing the same work as in other facilities. After four years of no wage increases, an offer was made that would have seen take-home pay stagnate for another three years says the union.
There have been several reported incidents of harassment of those on the picket line that, in come instances, have caused physical injury to union workers.
The two sides returned to the bargaining table today (September 4th) but not before more than 100 Union retirees traveled from the Unifor Family Education Centre in Port Elgin to Owen Sound in the early morning hours to rally at the Best Western Hotel and then it was off to the picket line in support of those on strike.
Kevin Smith, President of the Grey Bruce Labour Coucil said, “Fairness, equity and solidarity are our values. The work we do improves the lives of community members and it’s about creating a better future for our children and grandchildren and everyone else.”
Dave Trumble, immediate past-President of the Grey Bruce Labour Council, says that “This is where people define their own destiny. Working people are under attack from corporations, employers and their lap dogs in Government. Unfortunately, the Ford regime has nothing to do with democracy and what is happening south of the border with Trump is seeping in to Canada int he form of bullying. Workers have have legal right to strike as a pillar of our society. Without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn. Therefore, we, the workers, hold the balance of power. In the long tradition birthed in the kitchens and basements, there is success in solidarity.”