BELLEVILLE, Ont. - Security guards at an Ontario government school for deaf children have been locked out of their jobs, becoming the latest group of vulnerable workers victimized by the proliferation of low-wage, precarious contract jobs across the province.
Security guards at Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf – owned and operated by the Ontario government – were locked out Wednesday after resisting employer demands to accept poor wages, benefits and working conditions, including a demand to work up to 60 hours a week without overtime pay.
"This case is particularly objectionable because the Ontario government is complicit in the shoddy treatment of these workers," said Marty Warren, Ontario Director of the United Steelworkers (USW), which represents the security guards.
"The Ontario government owns and operates this school. Rather than acting as a responsible, decent employer, the government has opted for two levels of contracted-out services to private companies, directly creating more vulnerable, low-wage, precarious workers," Warren said.
The Ontario government awarded a private contract to a U.S.-based corporation, CBRE Group, to manage the Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf property. CBRE, in turn, contracted out security services at the school to another private company, the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires.
The seven security guards at the school have been trying to negotiate their first collective agreement after joining the USW in late 2015. They have met with considerable resistance in their attempt to secure a fair union contract with improvements in wages, benefits and working conditions.
The security guards earn less than $13 an hour and are required to pay up to $1,300 a year for basic benefits. They requested at the bargaining table to join a union-sponsored benefit plan that would save money for the employer and employees' alike, but the proposal was rejected by the Commissionaires.
The workers were locked out of their jobs by the Commissionaires after the company insisted on a schedule forcing employees to work up to 60 hours a week without overtime pay. The union has filed an application for first contract arbitration at the Ontario Labour Relations Board, seeking the OLRB's assistance with achieving a fair agreement.
"The Ontario government should be ensuring that workers in this province can build a decent life for themselves and their families," Warren said.
"Instead, the government is offloading its responsibilities and playing a direct role in creating more low-wage, vulnerable, contract jobs," Warren said. "And the Corps of Commissionaires, whose role it is to help former members of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP, is acting like the stingiest, profit-driven private operator."
For further information:
Marty Warren, USW District 6 Director, 416-243-8792, email@example.com
Richard Leblanc, USW Area Coordinator, Eastern Ontario, 613-632-2995, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, email@example.com