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Gift cards or pay raise?

New Path workers in Barrie want a raise
OPSEU members held an information picket Wednesday outside the New Path head office on Ferris Lane. Sue Sgambati/BarrieToday

Workers at New Path Youth and Family Services are poised to go on strike after the union says management offered gift cards instead of a pay raise. 

Some of the 86 workers held an information picket Wednesday outside the agency's head office on Ferris Lane to inform the public about the labour sitiation and the looming strike deadline of July 14.

OPSEU negotiator and staff representative Greg McVeigh says full time workers were offered a $700 gift card and part-timers would receive a pro-rated amount. 

"It's actually pretty simple," said McVeigh, holding a placard in the hot afternoon sun.

"The employer has said there's money on the table but they want to pay the members in Visa cards of gift cards as opposed to giving them a pay raise. Our position has been we'll take that same amount of money but we want it in salary.  We don't want it in Visa cards."

New Path is Simcoe County's lead agency for the province-wide 'Moving On Mental Health' plan, according to OPSEU.

The wage increase would amount to what the union calls a 'paltry' 1.5 percent salary bump. 

McVeigh says during the last round of bargaining in 2015 employees accepted the gift cards instead of a raise but only as a one-time deal.

"Employees accepted the offer of Visa cards because of austerity measures at the time in the government.  They said they didn't have any money and the negotiator thought we'll do this once to help save the organization money.  So the members took a hit to help the organization but next time we expect a fair wage increase."

McVeigh says a strike at the New Path centre would affect access to mental health care to about 20 percent of the region.

The facility employs child and youth workers, therapists, treatment workers, intake workers and administration staff.

New Path is government funded but McVeigh says the bargaining is with a local employer. 

Other unions are being treated 'fairly' and these workers want the same, he said. 

"On our last day of conciliation, we said just exchange the gift card for the rate and you would have a deal here today. To avoid going on strike we would take it," said McVeigh. 

"The price of bread goes up. The price of bread never goes down. A Visa card you spend, your wages dont go up.  They remain where they are."

The strike deadline is next Friday morning at 12:01 a.m. has reached out to New Path CEO Glen Newby for comment.

Sue Sgambati

About the Author: Sue Sgambati

Sue has had a 30-year career in journalism working for print, radio and TV. She is a proud member of the Barrie community.
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