Employees at the Elizabeth Fry Society of Simcoe County are now members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) after voting 93 per cent in favour of unionizing at a vote held on Aug. 2.
Based out of the employer's offices in Barrie, the workers provide services throughout Simcoe to women who have been in contact with the justice system.
There were a number of reasons the workers sought to join a union, according to Len Mancini, chair of OPSEU's Justice Sector.
"These women felt there was a lack of transparency in the workplace and, to be honest, not enough appreciation for the very important work they do. They give so much of themselves to their clients, and their dedication to their work needs to be acknowledged.
There was also an ongoing health and safety issue, said Mancini. "For years, these workers have been grappling with bed bugs. It's an awful thing for their vulnerable clients to have to deal with, on top of everything they've gone through. And for the workers, it's an ongoing hazard."
While management had occasionally brought in pest control, they have never really got serious about eradicating the problem, he said. "That's why workers bring a change of clothes with them — so they can protect their homes and families."
OPSEU has 130,000 members.
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