A strike action by members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Local 546 is certainly drawing attention and leaving its mark, though not everyone is expressing support. The Local 546 chapter represents employees of the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA), whose members are responsible for performing safety inspections on things such as elevators, food trucks, amusement park rides, boilers, and gasoline pumps.
The key issues of the current labour dispute involve the union’s call for more safety inspectors to perform more regular inspections, and more overall accountability in the sector. The union is also asking for wage increases that will bring workers’ compensation in line with industry standards. The union left the bargaining table after they felt negotiations with the TSSA were not going well. “At every meeting with the TSSA, the workers came up against an employer who stonewalled the negotiation process and showed little to no respect for them and their union,” reads a union release. The workers have been on strike since July 21.
One of the union rallies took place locally, outside an office building on Saunders Street in Kemptville. However, looming issues mean that the striking workers may not have had as much support as they would have liked.
One concerned local resident, W J Chris Morgan, feels that the strikes are putting people in danger. “For at least two months, the residents [of 215 Sanders Street] have been without an elevator,” writes Morgan. “The elevator has been repaired for at least two weeks. Why is it not in use? The inspector has not been able to check the repairs and certify that the elevator can be used. The reason for this appears to be a strike by the TSSA as the inspector will not cross a picket line to do the inspection. There are elderly people and people from Community Living who live in the apartments. Their struggle with stairs continues because of a union dispute which has nothing to do with them other than prolonging their inconvenience and danger to their health (falls!). Something needs to be done!”
Building management has placed chairs on the landings of the building’s stairwells. The purpose is to give residents using the stairs a chance to take a break between flights of stairs, in the hopes of lowering the risk of falls. Having chairs in a stairwell is considered a fire hazard, but in the absence of an elevator, there do not appear to be any other options. Even with the chairs, the risk of a serious fall still looms.
Labour strikes are often a source of much disagreement when they occur. Some groups that strike relatively frequently, such as education workers and postal employees, take significant flack from members of the public. One side of the issue is that the employees are often making reasonable requests, with employers giving them a hard time in an attempt to save money. However, those against the strikes often cite the unfairness of using innocent parties as “pawns” in the battle. Unfortunately for the nay-sayers, the pressure applied by these so-called “pawns” is often what encourages governments or other employers to concede defeat (or at least compromise), and so strikes are a bargaining tool not likely to come to an end anytime soon.
Strikes are a right in Canada. In a capitalist society strikes are essential.