Staff at ACCES Employment in Toronto reached a tentative settlement with their employer Sept. 15.
The 103 workers belong to Local 512 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).
"It came down to our people's grit and determination to get a fair deal – even if it meant walking out or being locked out," said Sydney Lovell, bargaining team chair. "The solidarity was awesome. It's never easy to negotiate a collective agreement, but when the workers are with you heart and soul, that's an invaluable bargaining chip."
While last-minute bargaining was taking place, ACCES employees were immediately outside conducting an information picket. A day of mediation on Sept. 5 had proved unsuccessful, while two days of conciliation in June had similarly failed to reach an agreement, said the union.
"Until yesterday, we had seen virtually no movement from the employer on some counterproductive concessions, notably, eliminating long-term disability benefits after five years," said Lovell. "There was no way we could allow that – and the 91 per cent strike vote the bargaining team got from workers certainly underscored that resistance."
Details of the agreement will not be released until Sept. 19, when a ratification vote will take place at OPSEU's office.
ACCES Employment is funded by the governments of Ontario and Canada, as well as United Way Toronto and York Region. OPSEU members work as employment counsellors, job developers, and administrative staff at five locations across the Greater Toronto Area.
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