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CUPE 4989 members ready to get back to work but County holding up process

PEMBROKE, Ont. – Last Tuesday Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 4989 members, who work as Ontario Works staff for the County of Renfrew, ratified a tentative collective agreement that should have ended a long strike – but a week later, they are still walking the picket line.

The County and union reached a tentative agreement on July 24. The Union ratified the tentative agreement that same day. We had a commitment from the employer last Tuesday to negotiate a Return to Work Protocol that would see members restoring the services they deliver to residents. That meeting was cancelled and rescheduled to this past Monday, July 30 and now they have cancelled that meeting too, says Amy Parker, CUPE National Representative. We have done everything we can to make sure County of Renfrew residents are provided with the services they rely on as soon as possible but now we are told that it cannot be done until next week – that’s a real slap in the face not only for us, but for those clients who rely on us.”

A call to the County’s chief negotiator was answered with a voicemail stating he was away on vacation until August 7.

To make matters worse, an email to the County CAO questioning the unnecessary delay was met with a reply that said that August 8 was the earliest that County would be able to call a special meeting and that even then, there would be no guarantee that they would have quorum in order to ratify the tentative agreement. Quorum is a minimum of nine councillors.

While we understand it is difficult to schedule a special meeting of County Council during the summer months, Renfrew County is certainly not presenting themselves as ‘Pretty as a Picture’ when it comes to dealing with Ontario Works, and the services that they provide the residents of Renfrew County, Parker continued.  We have done our part. It’s time for the County to do its part. Returning these employees to work must be the number one priority for the County of Renfrew.”

CUPE 4989 members have been on strike since May 10 and are eager to get back to serving the residents of Renfrew County. These 22 dedicated workers provide critical supports to 1,100 people receiving social assistance in their communities. Their services are crucial in a region where Ontario Works caseloads are climbing by an average of 38 new clients monthly.

For more information, please contact:

Marjorie Savoie, CUPE Communications: (613) 864-9924