Long-term care workers win battle for legitimate union representation
Following a protracted legal battle, the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) has confirmed the democratic rights of about 500 employees of the for-profit, long-term-care operator CONMED Health Care Group in Burlington, Ontario to join the United Steelworkers (USW) union.
By Pat Van Horne, USW member of the CHC Board of Directors
“This is a tremendous victory for these workers who had to wait several months to have their legal and democratic rights recognized,” says USW Ontario Director Marty Warren. USW is a member of the Canadian Health Coalition.
The workers voted by a large majority to join USW to achieve improved working and living standards.
“These women and men maintained their solidarity as their democratic rights were challenged by their employer as well as an employee ‘association’ that purported to represent their interests,” Warren said.
CONMED and a group known as Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) together pursued legal challenges to try and stop the workers from being certified as members of a legitimate union. While the legal issues delayed the outcome by months, ultimately the OLRB upheld the workers’ clear desire to join the USW.
“We welcome these new members to our union and we will support them every step of the way as they prepare to negotiate a decent collective agreement with their employer,” Warren said.
The workers are employed at four long-term care homes operated by CONMED in southern Ontario – Billings Court Manor in Burlington, Millennium Trail Manor in Niagara Falls, and Crescent Park Lodge and Maple Park Lodge, both in Fort Erie. They include personal support workers, nurses, and kitchen and dietary staff.