After being locked out for 15 weeks, municipal workers in the Northern Ontario community of Black River-Matheson are now on strike after the Township ended the lock out by forcing a contract on the workers, says CUPE 1490.

“Last week we overwhelming rejected the employer’s contract during a forced vote because it attacked our wages, especially those of the next generation of workers,” said Serge Bouchard, president of CUPE 1490. “Now we’re rejecting the employer’s forced contract, one whose terms strip us of many of the protections we had in our collective agreement. Our resolve is unbroken. We were locked out but now we’re on strike. We’ll be on the lines just the same.”

In a letter sent directly to members, the Chief Administrative Officer of Black River-Matheson, Chris Wray, wrote that “the Township will now accept for re-employment any staff member who is prepared to agree to the following terms”. This new contract, the union points out, makes numerous key protections in the previous collective agreement null and void.

“Not only is this forced contract completely inadequate, Chris Wray’s methods of communication are completely inappropriate,” said Bouchard, pointing out that Wray emailed the members directly rather than going to the bargaining agent, the union. “He has no right to send such messages like these - and that’s why we also sent a cease-and-desist letter.”

“We’re still on the picket lines for better wages for all of us, not just some of us. That’s the message we’ll also be sending to councilors and the mayor tomorrow at the next council meeting. I hope they finally hear us.”