It wasn’t quite an eleventh-hour deal, but workers at Elmira District Community Living managed to avoid a strike this week by agreeing to a new three-year deal with their employer. Local union president Trudy Allen said that 94 per cent of employees at EDCL, members of OPSEU Local 253, voted in favour of the new contract. “Talks were going on Saturday night, and we met Sunday morning at 10 a.m. to finalize the details,” said Allen of the deal, which was ratified Monday afternoon.
The workers, who had been without a contract since March 2010, were seeking a four-year deal that would provide a lump-sum payment of $850 in each of the first two years per full time equivalency, and a 2.5 per cent wage increase in years three and four.
EDCL countered with a lump-sum payment of $1,132 combined over the first two years, a one per cent increase in year three, and a zero per cent increase in year four.
The deal which was eventually accepted by the union was that same offered by EDCL, but with the fourth year removed, meaning both sides will be back at the bargaining table when this new deal expires next April.
“We’re hoping to give the employer time and us time; we wanted to avert a strike for a number of reasons,” said Allen, adding this deal was more of a way of buying more time until they have a clearer sense of how much provincial government funding will continue over the next year.
“We weighed out all of our options, and we decided to avert a strike.”
EDCL executive director Greg Bechard was unavailable for comment this week on the contract discussions, but said last week that he was in a very difficult position, given that he feels his employees were very deserving of the raises they were demanding, but that he had an ever-tightening budget to work with.
Bechard said the union’s earlier demands would have added up to about $500,000, and would have forced him to make layoffs and cutbacks.
The annual operating budget for EDCL is approximately $6 million, and the company employs about 180 full and part-time workers and serves approximately 150 families.