A strike that has closed six daycare centres in Durham Region is expected to continue next week after the region's municipal workers rejected their employer's latest offer Saturday night.
Members of CUPE Local 1764 — which represents paramedics, court staff, income support, child caregivers, health inspectors and others — voted against the offer, according to a statement by the union.
Union members went on strike on Thursday.
At the heart of this dispute is the sick leave benefit of the region's emergency medical services [EMS] workers. The union said Durham Region penalizes EMS workers for getting sick by refusing to pay for the first three days of their sick leave.
“It is ironic that Durham Region wants to punish EMS workers who get sick, when all they do is help the sick, the injured and residents in emergency situations,” union president Pauline Hopley said in a release.
“And when the EMS workers, who work in all kinds of difficult situations, fall sick, the employer wants to punish them for getting sick. How is this fair?”
The union is calling the the management to stop their “divisive tactics” and bargain fairly.
Durham Regional Chair Roger Anderson said he is disappointed by the result of the vote.
"We believed we've given them a good proposal," he told CBC News on Saturday.
Anderson added that Durham Region's paramedics have some of the highest absenteeism rates in Ontario — 15 days on average last year. They are also the highest paid in the province.
"The two just weren't working together very well," he said.
Anderson said the latest offer includes alternatives to solve the sick leave benefit dispute.
For example, the employer proposes to give paramedics alternative days off that they can use whenever they wish. They would not be paid only when they use up all those days.
The proposal also increased paramedics' sick leave insurance from 16 weeks to 26 weeks.
“There's ways they can get around it if they want,” Anderson said.
6 daycare centres closed
There is no immediate plan for a meeting between the union and the employer.
About 1,200 of the 1,600 workers the union represents will hit the picket line again Monday morning, Hopley said.
There are contingency plans in place to keep some services running to avoid major disruptions to the public.
Paramedics are continuing to provide essential services. However, court services, public health inspection and some sexual health clinics in Pickering and Port Perry would be affected by the strike, Hopley said.
Six of the region's seven childcare centres operated by the municipality are also closed because the provincial child-to-caregiver ratios couldn't be met.