Owen Sound medical centre strike over after tentative deal reached

OPSEU is claiming victory in a tentative deal reached between a dozen striking workers and the operators of the Owen Sound Family Health Organization.

OPSEU issued a release Wednesday evening at 5pm after two days of bargaining at a local hotel. 

They say their members have ratified a collective agreement that provides decent wages and working conditions that will ensure quality family health care in Owen Sound and across Ontario.

The doctors who own the clinic are scheduled to vote on the agreement Thursday.

“These workers, who are almost all women, have won an astounding victory against overwhelming odds,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “With strength and solidarity, they stood up against some of the most powerful members of their community because they knew they were right and they knew they were fighting for something bigger than themselves.

“I couldn’t be more proud to be in the same union as these women. They’ve helped themselves, and they’ve helped protect family health care for everybody in Owen Sound and, ultimately, right across Ontario.”

The OPSEU Local 276 members went on strike on May 22.

The union says the doctors who own the clinic were offering "laughable wage increases after four years of frozen wages".

They also accuse the doctors of refusing to address precarious and toxic working conditions.

But in the new four-year agreement, the doctors addressed many of those concerns, providing substantial wage increases, no pension claw backs, and significantly improved job security.

Details of the agreement aren't expected to be released until both sides have ratified.

“If these brave members hadn’t gone on strike, the owners would have got away with squeezing more and more profits out of the workers and, ultimately, out of the patients,” said OPSEU First Vice-President / Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida. “This isn’t just a victory for workers. It’s a victory for every adult, senior, and child in Owen Sound.

The workers could be back on the job as early as Sept. 10.

We have been told that there are just 12 remaining workers on the picket line down from the 30 or so nurses, clerical staff and custodians who walked off three months ago.

“Strikes are never easy, but they’re always important. I’d like to extend sincere thanks to the people of Owen Sound for their respect and encouragement through this,” said Thomas.

“Our members faced threats and violence. But with the community’s support, not to mention the support of OPSEU members and of other unions from across the province, their solidarity and strength grew with each passing day.”​

Things had become so heated during the strike, Owen Sound police dispatched a team of half a dozen officers to be on site since Tuesday after being called to the picket line close to 50 times in the past few weeks for complaints of vehicles bumping striking workers.

At least one of those incidents is still under investigation in which a woman's foot was broken when a vehicle ran over it. 

There were also complaints of damaged vehicles.

So far we have had no statement or comment from the doctors operating the clinic.