Home Arbitration/Labour Relations ‘It’s a hit to the gut’: Striking Matheson workers banned from some buildings

‘It’s a hit to the gut’: Striking Matheson workers banned from some buildings

by Local Journalism Initiative
By Marissa Lentz | TimminsToday.com

Striking union members are banned from going into three Matheson facilities.

CUPE Local 1490 members were recently issued a trespassing notice from the Township of Black River-Matheson.

It’s to the ongoing labour dispute between the union and township. Fourteen CUPE members were locked out by the township in October. The members went on strike when the township ended the lockout in January. 

Striking workers were issued a trespassing notice on Feb. 15 prohibiting them from entering town hall, the arena and a public works site located at 1115 Vimy Ridge Rd.

The notice also excludes members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and employees the Canadian Union of Public Employees from accessing the facilities.

On Feb. 22, the township modified the order after concerns were raised that unionized emergency responders should not be part of the ban. The notice was updated to note “excepting members of any CUPE Local that is in the process of providing emergency services.”

Union members were previously given a trespassing notice on Nov. 17, 2023, which was lifted on Jan. 17, 2024, Tammy Robinson, a spokesperson for CUPE Local 1490, told TimminsToday.

She said while the latest notice is very similar to the first one, “the two members that crossed the line have been removed from it and they added on” the CUPE Ontario municipal worker chair Krista Suzanne.

Robinson, an Iroquois Falls resident who’s been an activist with the union for more than 12 years, said she’s never seen any tactics like these.

“I have been a servicing rep for CUPE out of the Timmins area. I was actually here with them when they were locked out in 2014 … it was not like this at all. It was difficult. It was three months they were locked out. It was a difficult return to work, and we all worked together. We all agreed to even have somebody come in and do team building with us when it was all done,” she said.

“We haven’t even gotten that far with this and I don’t even know if it’s repairable at this point anymore because now they’re criminalizing people. Like, we’ve got three people with criminal charges.”

The right to strike is constitutionally protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Robinson said.

“And even to go further, under the labour organization. It’s a fundamental right enshrined in the international human rights and labour law. I just don’t understand how they don’t get it. We’re just trying to ensure that we can maintain a democratic right,” she said.

Union members’ mental health is being gravely impacted by the ongoing issues, Robinson said.

“I really don’t understand. Is it a power struggle? Like, we don’t want power, we want to be treated equally,” she said.

“All these tactics, you know, every time we think we’re getting ahead, it’s a hit to the gut. It’s certainly discouraging and disheartening, and it is taking a toll on people’s mental health.”

Robinson said they want to get back to the table to negotiate a deal.

“We want to freely negotiate. We want to talk. If you feel you need cost-saving measures, then help us understand why. Like what can we do to work together, because we want to ensure we provide quality services to the community and for the community because that’s what we’re here for,” she said.

The one thing helping them stay strong is community support, Robinson said.

“We always want to thank the community for their support, kindness, and generosity. They give us the strength every day to keep up the fight,” she said.

“And all the other activists and all the other unions, we’ve had so much help and outreach from across Canada. It’s unbelievable. We cannot thank the people enough. One day longer, one day stronger.”

TimminsToday reached out to the township for comment but hasn’t received a response.

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