A Healthy Place for Everyone
Nestled in the small southwestern Ontario community of Wallaceburg is The Oaks Retirement Village. The retirement home opened in November 2014 with 61 suites for seniors and underwent a multimillion dollar expansion in 2017 to add another 51 suites—25 of them memory care suites designed to assist residents with early-stage Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The new suites provide a safe place for those who are not quite ready for long term care and who still want to engage in activities, have fun, and enjoy life before their condition deteriorates to the point where they need full-time nursing care. The Oaks aims to promote a healthy retirement lifestyle that all of its residents deserve, and the new suites demonstrate that commitment.
Providing that lifestyle is what the 70 Local 303 members employed at The Oaks do every day as dietary, care, concierge, environmental, and housekeeping staff. A number of staff have been there since the home opened four years ago, including Janice McGaffey, Nathalie Laprise, Heather Salisbury, Leah Bechard, Caroline Leclerc, and Sue Schopf.
In July 2018, they and their coworkers voted to join Local 303, seeking improvements to their wages and to their relationship with their employer. They are currently in negotiations for a first collective agreement. Along with wage increases, key negotiating priorities include improvements to benefits, call-in language, and seniority provisions.
“Fair wages and equality were two of the main reasons that the staff at The Oaks approached us,” says Mary Ellen Alward, CLAC representative. “These members love what they do—they just want to be treated in a consistent and fair way. They want to create a healthy workplace environment, where they are treated with the same dignity and respect that they show to the residents they serve and care for every day.”