Earlier this month, a labour dispute began for workers at Naomi’s Family Resource Centre, an emergency shelter for women and children located in Winchester. Staff at the Centre were reportedly at risk of being locked out by their employer.
The staff at Naomi’s are members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which held a rally on November 1 in front of the Winchester branch of the SD&G County Library. A poster was distributed on social media in advance of the rally to help garner support from the public.
A plea on the poster reads: “Members of OPSEU/SEFPO Local 434, who staff the emergency shelter for women and children in Winchester, could be locked out of their workplace as soon as Sunday, November 6. These workers just want respect from their employer and a say in their schedule. Help spread the word and let’s encourage residents and businesses in their community to support these dedicated women and their fight for respect!” A small but strong group of workers could be observed rallying peacefully on St. Lawrence Street on November 1.
“Their employer filed a no board with the Ministry of Labour after being unwilling to follow through on attending any more dates set for bargaining,” an anonymous supporter told the Times. “The employer wanted to make the staff sign off in their contract to work 16 hour shifts without needing individual written approval.”
The source revealed that the latest information from the employer suggests that they were willing to return to the bargaining table after a vigil on November 5. This would have come as good news to the staff, since a lockout – if it were to occur – would necessitate the women housed at Naomi’s being temporarily relocated.
“They agreed to no wage increase,” the source added. “It wasn’t monetary that they were fighting for, even though 9 out of the last 11 years they have not had an increase. They are one of the lowest paid of all the shelter workers. The women work alone supporting nine people and must be awake through the night.”
The Times contacted OPSEU for some clarification on the nature of the dispute. A spokesperson for the Union vowed to have a member of their communications team reach out, but no response was received by deadline.
As of the time of writing, it is unclear whether the dispute is still ongoing.