By David Bush
Despite heavy rain well over 200 people rallied in Whitby in support of the striking Durham inside workers yesterday. The rally was organized by CUPE Ontario to show solidarity for the 1600 CUPE 1764 members who have been on strike since last Thursday. Over the weekend the inside workers rejected the latest offer from the Durham region.
The outstanding issues for the union are the clawback in paramedic sick days and the concerns over part-time paramedics scheduling of availability. The employer is seeking to make the first three days of paramedics sick leave unpaid. Under the previous contract the first three days were covered by the municipality after which the health plan of the paramedics covered the costs. This battle over sick leave is no small matter as Paramedics have some of the highest rates of occupational injuries and illness in the country.
The president of the striking local, Pauline Hopley stated, “what this employer has tried to do is divide the local. They tried to divide 1300 workers from 300 paramedics.”
CUPE 1764 has characterized this tactic of only seeking concessions from the paramedics as ‘divide and conquer.’ Andy McCabe, a paramedic represented by CUPE 1764 noted, “the reason we are fighting this (the concessions for the paramedics) so vehemently, is if this goes through in the next round of bargaining they are going to extend that to every other member in the local.”
Sid Ryan, the president of the OFL, spoke to the rally and put the Durham strike into a broader context of fighting the austerity agenda in Ontario. Ryan stated, “we just elected a new government, and their mantra is no wage increases, no benefits increases for workers. I think that CUPE local 1764 is going to send a strong signal, not just to the Durham region, but also to the politicians in Queens Park that the labour movement is about making progress for workers.”
Listen to the full report back: OFL President Sid Ryan’s speech at the rally, an interview with CUPE 1764 president Pauline Hopley and an interview with Andy McCabe a paramedic in the Durham region.