NDP's behaviour toward Hamilton workers 'appalling,' union says

The union representing the Ontario NDP's office workers says the party has fired one Hamilton employee — and stopped paying two others — weeks before their human rights complaints are scheduled to be heard.
Three Hamilton staffers - one in the office of MPP Paul Miller, left, and two in the office of Monique Taylor, centre - have been either terminated or had their pay suspended, their union says. Arbitration hearings were scheduled for September. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The union representing the Ontario NDP's office workers says the party has fired one Hamilton employee and stopped paying two others weeks before their human rights complaints are scheduled to be heard.

COPE Ontario issued a strongly worded statement Tuesday, saying the party's behaviour is "appalling."

The latest development comes months after three workers in Hamilton constituency offices — one in MPP Paul Miller's office, and two in the office of Monique Taylor — filed Ontario human rights complaints.

Both sides agreed to arbitration hearings on those matters in September, said Patty Clancy, the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE) Ontario director, in the media release.

But before they got there, the party terminated the employment of long-time employee Todd White when he was on parental leave. And the party, the union says, has stopped paying the two who complained from Taylor's office. All three are represented by COPE Local 343.

Clancy believes the party only agreed to arbitration to keep the issue out of the media during the June provincial election.

"We don't usually do labour relations in the press, but when you disregard basic workers' rights with such impunity, it doesn't give us much choice," Clancy said. 

"This is an all-too-typical employer attack on workers' ability to use the grievance process to stop (Employment Standards Act), labour law, and Human Rights violations. It's unacceptable from any employer, but it's appalling from the NDP."

It's the latest chapter in an increasingly awkward ordeal between the party and the Hamilton employees.

White's allegations, which include numerous union grievances, say Miller discriminated against him and questioned his commitment when he went on parental leave. He also alleges Miller forced staff to campaign for him during regular office hours.

In Taylor's office, meanwhile, Sandra Troulinos claims Taylor tried to force her to file a sexual harassment complaint to human resources against another female employee over hugs. That employee has also filed a complaint.

CBC News has reached out to the party for comment. But in the past, the party has said it's the only one in Ontario with unionized constituency staff. It's also says it is dedicated to the labour relations process.

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath said in April that she trusted the process. She also didn't believe the cases would hurt the party's election chances.

"Most people are fair minded, and they'll see when these things are brought forward that there's a due process," she said then.

Horwath recently named Taylor (Hamilton Mountain) critic for Children and Youth Services. Miller (Hamilton East – Stoney Creek) is the critic for tourism and sport.

White, meanwhile, is current chair of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. One of the people running against him in the Oct. 22 municipal election is retired teacher Carole Paikin Miller. She is Paul Miller's wife.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs

Reporter

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca