Willowgrove Employees Reject Unifor, Choose to Remain with CLAC
Ancaster, Ontario—The nearly 200 employees of Chartwell Willowgrove Long Term Care Residence in Ancaster voted decisively in favour of remaining with their current union, Niagara Health Care and Service Workers Union, CLAC Local 302.
The Ontario Labour Relations Board supervised vote was held yesterday following an aggressive six-month campaign by Unifor to persuade workers to switch unions. A number of employees complained of Unifor’s confrontational tactics throughout the campaign.
Voter turnout was strong, with almost 75 percent of the employees voting. The vote count was 85 in favour of CLAC Local 302 and 61 in favour of Unifor.
“We are happy that so many people came out to cast a ballot today,” says Karen Meloche, a CLAC steward and member of the union bargaining committee member who also served as a scrutineer during the vote. “We’re pleased that the majority of the employees rejected Unifor’s aggressive, conflict-driven style of labour relations and chose to continue with CLAC’s positive approach. We look forward to returning to the bargaining table and representing our members in their day-to-day work.”
The employees had previously been represented by the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) but were dissatisfied with the lack of representation they received. Three years ago, they voted in favour of leaving LIUNA and joining CLAC.
The union bargaining committee immediately got to work on negotiating a new collective agreement but could not reach a settlement with management. At arbitration, CLAC won industry-leading wage increases for the employees ranging from 4.75 percent to 6.37 percent. That contract expired March 22, and the union is now in negotiations for a new agreement.
“Our aim is to build on the strong gains we made with our first contract at arbitration,” says Melanie Sykes, CLAC representative. “Our members do outstanding work in a very tough environment, but they are still underpaid relative to other long term care facilities. We are confident that we can develop positive relationships, resolve conflicts, and come together as a work community for everyone’s benefit.”