Wel­lkin heads to ar­bi­tra­tion

Tillsonburg News - - NEWS - gcol­[email protected]­media.com GREG COLGAN

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

Formerly known as Ox­ford-El­gin Child and Youth Cen­tre, Wel­lkin re­branded them­selves ear­lier this year to in­crease vis­i­bil­ity and ac­ces­si­bil­ity. They of­fer men­tal health ser­vices for chil­dren and youth be­tween Ox­ford and El­gin Coun­ties in Till­son­burg, Wood­stock, Inger­soll, and St. Thomas. The or­ga­ni­za­tion is op­er­ated by a board of di­rec­tors with its head of­fice in Wood­stock.

Uni­for Lo­cal 302, who rep­re­sent the 40 Wel­lkin union mem­bers, and Wel­lkin man­age­ment said the two sides worked late Mon­day night in at­tempt to reach an agree­ment.

While both said progress had been made, the union 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 wrote.

Wel­lkin’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor, Mamta Chail-Teves, said in an email both sides avoided a strike and ar­bi­tra­tion al­lows a per­son sep­a­rate from the process to come to 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 wrote.

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

The 40 union work­ers voted last week to go on 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 hasn’t been set for ar­bi­tra­tion.

The union and Wel­lkin met with a con­cil­ia­tor from the On­tario Min­istry of Labour Mon­day.

Wel­lkin is not part of the On­tario Hos­pi­tal Labour Dis­putes Ar­bi­tra­tion Act, which pre­vents es­sen­tial ser­vice providers from strik­ing.

Uni­for Lo­cal 302 said 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 put those in need of their ser­vices first and are hope­ful for a res­o­lu­tion. She added they 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.”

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