The tenacity prevails for the Westmount One workers

30 May 2013

-by Cyntia Gagnier, union representative and Philippe Viens, articling student – Bar of Quebec

In spite of long and difficult negotiations, and the intervention of a mediator from the Ministry of Labour in order to resolve the disagreements between the negotiation committee and the employer, the workers of Westmount One had been without a work contract since July 14th, 2012. However, after having rejected the employers’ offers twice, the workers of the Westmount One seniors’ residence finally succeeded and forced their employer to make them new and better offers.

In comparison with other seniors’ residences, the working conditions and especially the wages at Westmount One lagged significantly for almost all types of positions that were attached to the accredited unit.  The result being that the members’ anger and disappointment were obvious during union assemblies, whereas the employer only offered a few pennies above minimum wage to the majority of the workers.

The stinginess of the first employers’ offers only offended the employees. For example, no sick leave was offered for the majority of the workers having to work on a daily basis with the dangers present in the healthcare sector. Furthermore, in the first offers, the employer refused to recognize the many years of loyal services for the majority of them.

Pots and pans and signs in order to be heard

This is why the workers rejected the employers’ offers twice and then went out in front of their workplace daily, signs and pans in hands, in order to draw the attention of passers-by and residents. Some residents even decided to join them to sing slogans asking for better work conditions!

Westmount One being a private residence was subject to a decree on essential services. Therefore, workers must provide 90% of their usual work time, leaving a mere 10% of their time for striking. However, a long list of nonessential services that were to be cut had been prepared: all of the small luxuries that the employer’s clients were accustomed to.

Consequently, these actions quickly motivated the employer to return to the negotiation table, to grant better wage increases for the majority of the workers and to recognise their many years of service. The members, who gathered on May 17th 2013, accepted at 89% the employer’s offers.

Thanks to their courage and determination, the Westmount One workers were able to improve their lives and, from now on, will be able to work with more dignity.