Talks on today between Owen Sound docs and strikers

Talks resume today in the bitter dispute between workers at an Owen Sound medical clinic and the doctors who operate it. 

The dozen or so nurses, clerical workers and custodial staff still left on the picket line walked off the job at the Owen Sound Family Health Organization on May 22nd. 

At that time there were 30 of them. 

Since then there has only been one other bargaining session that ended when the doctors said they were going to layoff most of the striking workers. 

OPSEU says lawyers for the doctors group wanted to meet today.  

Last Friday, they issued the following statement ~

Open Letter to the Owen Sound Community

The physicians of the Owen Sound Family Health Organization appreciate the support shown by our community, which has allowed us to continue providing care to our patients during this ongoing work stoppage.

Unfortunately, physicians, staff and patients have been subjected to increasing harassment and intimidation by OPSEU and some of the remaining 17 employees who are members of Local 276.

We remain steadfast in our belief that we have been fair, reasonable and transparent in our dealings with the union and with our employees.

We have bargained in good faith, making decisions which remain in the best interest of patient care, all while balancing the interests of our employees.

Our goal has always been, and will continue to be, to make high quality health services available to the residents in the Owen Sound region, and to ensure that our organization is sustainable to provide patient services for years to come.

When addressing some misconceptions, it’s important to note that the President of OPSEU, Warren “Smokey” Thomas, is correct when he says we have had to direct financial resources to lawyers and security. In fact, our resources are being strained. We cannot begin to match the huge financial, legal and political resources of an organization like OPSEU, which has annual revenue of in excess of $100 million dollars.

We were initially successful in negotiating a new contract, which the union representatives unanimously recommended for acceptance. Clearly, OPSEU felt both the contract and the process was fair and reasonable. After employees could not agree with their own union on the terms of the contract, OPSEU changed its tune, now claiming that we have not bargained fairly. OPSEU’s position simply doesn’t reflect the facts and it is politically motivated.

Regardless, together with OPSEU and our property owner, we recognized the employees’ right to strike and agreed on a strike protocol to ensure that patient access to care would be unimpeded.

However, OPSEU then breached the strike protocol and we were forced to request that a court intervene to protect against the unlawful activities of OPSEU and its members. Those activities have continued to escalate. As of August, almost half of the employees have resigned with many indicating that they could not support the actions of the union.

We remain committed to ensuring that our patients and our staff are safe, and we will take every measure available to us to protect against any unlawful activities. We value the support that the Owen Sound Community has shown us. We will continue to rely on that support as we attempt to conclude an agreement with OPSEU which protects patients. Providing quality patient care has always been, and will continue to be, our priority.

We hope that we will see an end to this strike in the near future. Thank you for all your continuing support.

Yours truly,
The Physicians of the Owen Sound Family Health Organization


The strike has become fairly nasty with police investigating several incidents in which charges could be pending against motorists who've bumped, or in one case, broke the foot of one of the strikers as they delay vehicles from entering the medical clinic.   

There have also been complaints of damage to vehicles.   

The union admits they've brought in support strikers— mostly men — to dissuade verbal abuse at female picketers from passersby.   

Owen Sound police have become frustrated with the calls to the picket line and issued the following statement last Friday ~

Between the dates of May 22, and August 30, 2018, the Owen Sound Police Service has responded to calls for service from picketers, employees and citizens. In all, there have been 48 (forty-eight) calls for service to the Owen Sound Police Service Communications Centre. Some of these calls have resulted in investigations into persons being struck at the picket line and mischief to vehicles. This has resulted in a significant draw on police resources and delays in responding to other calls for service. There are many questions that citizens ask regarding a lawful strike and what is acceptable during the labour dispute. Each police call is measured on its own merit and the following is provided to assist the public with information regarding a strike:

· Any person has the right to picket and that activity is legal and guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 2.

· The time that it takes for a person to be able to enter an access point, like a driveway during a lawful strike, can be determined by many factors like the number of vehicles awaiting entry, picket-line protocol between a union and ownership/management or the weather.

· A person may not be physically assaulted. They may however, be subjected to comments or debate from picketers who wish to offer their view or position on the labour dispute.

· Motor vehicle drivers cannot drive through a picket line if it is not safe to do so. This is a requirement of law.

· Video or audio recording is permitted.

Our role is not to take sides in a lawful labour dispute. The role of the Owen Sound Police is to keep the peace and to encourage cooperation by all persons involved. We continue our commitment to public safety and law enforcement in our city. More information about the Labour Relations Act can be found at and

A team of  four to six officers will be dispatched to the clinic when the two sides meet at some point today. 

The labour dispute is also featured in this morning's National Post.