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Locked out CMHA workers in Timmins get support from OPSEU


Members of the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union (OPSEU) at the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Cochrane-Timiskaming Branch in Timmins, Ont. maintain they want a fair contract.

Maggie Wakeford is the president of OPSEU Local 631 and she says the wage increase management is offering is not a fair deal. (Lydia Chubak/CTV News Northern Ontario)"We would have to pay four per cent of our gross annual so now we’re already down one per cent so we’re paying four per cent to get into hoop,” said Maggie Wakeford, the president of OPSEU Local 631 who represents the Timmins CMHA workers who were locked out on Tuesday.

“He’s offering us three and the second year is 2.5 – that is not a good deal."

The workers, many of whom are nurses or social and addictions specialists that CTV News spoke with on Friday said they are still hopeful an agreement can be made soon.

Paul Jalbert, Cochrane-Timiskaming CMHA executive director, said he too is still hopeful the labour dispute can be resolved.

“We don’t have any further bargaining dates scheduled, but you know we’re one call away if (they) wanna resume these conversations."

On Friday, those workers who are currently locked out received some extra support as OPSEU’s provincial president joined the 147 members on the picket line.

JP Hornick said this is not the time for a lockout, calling the move particularly aggressive.

Provincial OPSEU president JP Hornick says that the CMHA had the choice not to lock out workers during a mental health crisis in the region and to continue to negotiate but declined to do so. (Lydia Chubak/CTV News Northern Ontario)“There’s no need to lock out workers in the middle of a mental health and addictions crisis, particularly in this region,” the union president said.

“They had a choice to continue bargaining at the table instead what they did is force these workers out in the street."

Jalbert said the CMHA does a lot of important work in the community and is trying to continue that even through the lockout.

Paul Jalbert, Cochrane-Timiskaming CMHA executive director, says management is continuing to do everything it can to support clients. (Lydia Chubak/CTV News Northern Ontario)“We’ve had to triage and really focus on those with the highest level of need which so far we’ve been able to provide,” he said.

“Our walk-in call-in services (are) accessible and people can walk in and we’ll help them in whichever we can.”

In case of emergency, immediate support can be accessed 24/7 through:

  • Nearest hospital emergency room
  • 988 Suicide Crisis Helpline, available 24/7
  • Health 211
  • Cochrane District Crisis Response Service 1-888-340-3003 in the Timmins area

Some clients told CTV News that without help from their case workers they are lost.

“Every two weeks I get an appointment with my worker Jackie and I’ve been working with them for five years now,” said client Jeffrey Lee Tillman.

“I got no resources right now. I’m out here in the cold. I just went up and talked to the managers. They gave me a piece of paper... uh telling me all the resources, stuff like that.”

Other clients said the service disruption is making their conditions worse.

“I have anxiety and panic attacks for more than 30 years now because of an accident I had and this is the only thing that helps me,” said client Charmaine Pichette.

“You need to hear from the clients not just your workers, you need to talk to a client.”

Pichette said management should be asking clients how they feel about the labour situation.

Both sides of this labour dispute said they are willing to talk – but both are waiting for the other side to make the first move. Top Stories

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