CUPE and WSIB labour negotiations in overtime

Workers are on the job but currently in a legal strike position

CUPE and WSIB labour negotiations in overtime

Negotiations between the WSIB and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents the workers, have extended into overtime.

Originally the deadline for potential job action was May 29th. Harry Goslin, president of the local chapter of CUPE that represents 3,750 workers, says last week the two sides agreed to extend the negotiations one extra day, putting the workers in a legal strike position as of May 30th.

When negotiations resumed at the beginning of the week Goslin said the two sides were “even farther apart with the employers latest offer.”  That was on Monday, with Goslin adding “I'll just say that the employer has walked backwards from their position last week, for whatever reason.”

Negotiations continued all day Monday, and then again, all day Tuesday, going past midnight. By Wednesday morning the workers were officially in a legal strike position, but the two sides remained committed to getting a deal done without any kind of labour disruption, and talks continued all day Wednesday, heading into the evening hours again.

Workers are on the job today, and Goslin says “as a union, we're going to continue to do our absolute best to get to a fair contract and avoid job action, we don't want to have disruption for Ontario's injured workers, if at all possible.”

Wage increases, as is often the case, are one of the top issues being discussed, but Fred Hahn, the president of CUPE Ontario, also said the workload has increased significantly for WSIB employees.

``A few years ago, the average WSIB case manager had about 70 cases to oversee, 70 injured workers, 70 families depending on them,'' he said.

``Today that number for some is ballooned to 140 cases, and some have more.''

He said workers need the WSIB to provide more training. For example, he said, the organization used to provide six months of training to every adjudicator and case manager.

Another major issue at play, according to Goslin and WSIB case manager April Leblanc, is time off. “They're trying to remove some of the accrual, which would amount to a reduction in the overall compensation,” says Goslin.

But Leblanc says simply even trying to use the amount of time off that is available to workers is a challenge.

“People will actually not take time off because they know when they come back, they're just going to have more work and going to be more stressed because the load is piled even higher," says Leblanc.

Further updates on the negotiations are expected later today. Check back with Canadian Occupational Safety for the very latest.