Ontario NDP in a war of words with the union representing its workers

The party is firing back at union claims the party fired or stopped paying three office workers who made human rights complaints.

The party lawyer says COPE used going public as a scare tactic to get pay reinstated for 2 Hamilton workers

Paul Miller, left, NDP MPP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, listened to a speech in 2016 with Monique Taylor, NDP MPP for Hamilton Mountain, and Wayne Marston, former MP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The Ontario NDP is firing back at union claims the party fired or stopped paying three office workers who made human rights complaints.

The party caucus said Wednesday it "strongly disagrees" with Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE) assertions it's been acting in bad faith toward its own employees.

The NDP caucus hasn't violated any employment laws, it said through its legal counsel, Meg Atkinson. And the union tried to use going public as a fear tactic against the party.

COPE's statements are "factually inaccurate and intentionally misleading," Atkinson said in an email.

The party's statement is the latest in a tense and increasingly confusing battle involving the union, the caucus and former staffers of two Hamilton MPPs.

Earlier this year, long-time employee Todd White filed a human rights complaint in relation to his employer, Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MPP Paul Miller. In it, he claimed Miller discriminated against him for taking parental leave. He was fired Aug. 20, said his lawyer, Wade Poziomka.

Two employees in Hamilton Mountain MPP Monique Taylor's office – Sandra Troulinos and Alissa Watt – also filed human rights complaints. Troulinos alleges Taylor tried to force her to file a sexual harassment complaint against Watt because Watt liked to hug her coworkers. 

None of the allegations have been proven.

COPE said in a media release Tuesday that arbitration hearings were scheduled for this month. The party should have waited before suspending anyone's pay, it said.

"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," said Patty Clancy, COPE Ontario president.

Atkinson said the union tried to use the public statement as a bartering tool to get the party to reinstate the workers' pay.

That, Atkinson said, is not "an acceptable way" to deal with the matter.

"The NDP caucus is even more concerned that COPE issued the release after the NDP caucus refused to capitulate to the threat," she said.

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