Back in October 2015, Commissionaires Security Solutions took over security at St. James Whitney School for the Deaf.
Since then, the Commissionaires have been in contract talks with 7 unionized guards.
Michael Voith/CEO, Kingston Division – Commissionaires
“When we took over the contract, they had very low wages and essentially no benefits. When we came in, we gave them an 8.5% pay increase immediately.
We gave them health and dental benefits.
We gave them a RSP program were we do some matching for pension plan. We give them uniforms.
We pay for first aid training, and we give them safety boots. So, we give them a whole host of they benefits they did not have before.”
But the union that represents those guards says the benefits aren’t as good as they seem.
David Meinzinger/United Steelworkers, Local 9597:
“Right now these guys are paying ‘family’ up to 50 cents per hour for a benefit plan, out of their own pocket. And they are making just over 12 dollars an hour… So they are making minimum wage or just over minimum wage.”
For the past year the two sides have been trying to work out a new contract.
Recently, the guards voted to strike to back their wage demands.
The Commissionaires responded by locking them out…. bringing in replacement workers.
“‘It’s our duty to the client and these children to continue to providing security. So, we had no other option but to lock them out.. to make sure that on a daily basis that the guards are there to provide the necessary security for these vulnerable children.”
The lockout only began Wednesday morning, but already both sides are eager to find an agreement… though neither side says that they’re willing to budge on the main topics of the dispute… pay and benefits.”
“When you’re in this business, every contract has to stand on its own two feet. We cannot use other contracts to subsidize a contract.
My hopes are that the employees realize that we are giving them a good deal.”
“We’re going to stick one day longer than the employer and get a fair deal.”
Even though pickets are set up outside the school, the lockout isn’t affecting classes.
Callie Warren, CKWS News, Belleville.