Wel­lkin man­age­ment, work­ers head to ar­bi­tra­tion

Sentinel-Review (Woodstock) - - FRONT PAGE - GREG COLGAN

Work­ers and man­age­ment at Wel­lkin Child and Youth Men­tal Well­ness are head­ing to ar­bi­tra­tion af­ter the two sides were un­able to reach a new con­tract.

Uni­for Lo­cal 302, which rep­re­sents the 40 union­ized Wel­lkin em­ploy­ees, said the two sides worked late Mon­day night but could not reach an agree­ment. While both said progress had been made, the union rep­re­sen­ta­tives and man­age­ment agreed to ul­ti­mately have an ar­bi­tra­tor make the fi­nal de­ci­sion.

“In light of the clients that these work­ers serve, an agree­ment was reached to have the out­stand­ing is­sues heard by an ar­bi­tra­tor rather than go the route of a strike or lock­out,” Uni­for Lo­cal 302 pres­i­dent Nancy McMur­phy said.

Wel­lkin’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Mamta Chail-Teves, said in an email both sides wanted to avoid a strike so ar­bi­tra­tion would al­low a per­son sep­a­rate from the process to make a de­ci­sion.

“We felt this was the best de­ci­sion in light of the cir­cum­stances and trust that an in­de­pen­dent ar­bi­tra­tor will fairly eval­u­ate the key is­sues fac­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion,” she said.

“Over­all, this means that we will con­tinue with­out a labour dis­rup­tion and can turn our at­ten­tion to sup­port­ing the com­mu­nity.”

The 40 work­ers voted last week to strike if a new col­lec­tive agree­ment wasn’t reached by Dec. 5. Their pre­vi­ous col­lec­tive agree­ment ex­pired in March 2018, leav­ing them with­out a con­tract for about nine months. A date has not been set for ar­bi­tra­tion.

The union and Wel­lkin met with a con­cil­ia­tor from the On­tario Min­istry of Labour Mon­day. Wel­lkin isn’t part of the On­tario Hospi­tal Labour Disputes Ar­bi­tra­tion Act, which pre­vents es­sen­tial ser­vice providers from strik­ing.

Wel­lkin, for­merly known as Ox­ford-El­gin Child and Youth Cen­tre be­fore they re­branded them­selves ear­lier this year to in­crease vis­i­bil­ity and ac­ces­si­bil­ity, of­fers men­tal-health ser­vices for chil­dren and youth be­tween Ox­ford and El­gin coun­ties in Wood­stock, St. Thomas, Inger­soll and Till­son­burg.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion is op­er­ated by a board of di­rec­tors, with its head of­fice in Wood­stock.

Uni­for Lo­cal 302 in­di­cated in a re­lease last week the new man­age­ment at Wel­lkin of­fered re­duc­tion in ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing elim­i­nat­ing vi­sion care, re­duc­tions to sick and va­ca­tion leave, cuts to their RRSP and a three-year wage freeze. McMur­phy said the two sides agreed to put those in need of their ser­vices first and re­main hope­ful for a res­o­lu­tion. She added the two sides agreed on a sin­gle ar­bi­tra­tor rather than a panel to hope­fully speed up the process.

“The hol­i­day sea­son can be an ex­tremely dif­fi­cult time for an al­ready chal­lenged pop­u­la­tion, and we col­lec­tively agreed that we needed to take these in­di­vid­u­als into con­sid­er­a­tion,” she said in an email. “We have a very com­pas­sion­ate and ded­i­cated group of mem­bers that we will con­tinue to fight for in this process as strongly as they ad­vo­cate on be­half of their clients.”

HEATHER RIVERS/SEN­TINEL-RE­VIEW FILE PHOTO

Work­ers and man­age­ment at Wel­lkin Child and Youth Men­tal Well­ness are head­ing to ar­bi­tra­tion af­ter the two sides were un­able to reach a new con­tract ear­lier this week.

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