An IBEW office and clerical bargaining unit at Windsor Regional Hospital in Ontario was put to the test in October 2013 when the hospital initiated a merger with Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital.

The Ontario Labour Relations Board mandated a representation vote between several unions, IBEW, CUPE and OPSEU vs. Unifor as Unifor represented these three groups at its Ouellette Campus (formerly Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital) and the other unions represented the members at its Met campus (which is Windsor Regional Hospital).

The Nov. 13 election pitted Toronto Local 636 against Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, itself a 2013 merger of the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers Union.

“We were there to answer any and all questions Unifor members had,” says Local 636 Business Representative Linda Georgiu, who worked as an office and clerical worker at Windsor Regional Hospital for 21 years alongside an overwhelmingly female workforce.

Local 636 Business Representative Linda Georgiu says strong communications and a history of responsible representation powered Toronto Local 636’s campaign to represent workers at merged units of Windsor Regional Hospital.

Local 636 represents office workers in a broad number of classifications from health records to admitting and payroll, numbering 35 different classifications.

IBEW’s member-to-member plan worked, as former Unifor members opted for IBEW representation, boosting the 350-member Local 636 bargaining to 600 and leading to successful negotiations culminating in a March 26 contract that raised the wages and benefits for former Unifor workers. Local 636 hosted luncheons, distributed newsletters and held two meet-and-greets at each location, sanctioned by the labour board and the hospital for all competing unions.

Georgiu recruited retiree Karen Morrison, a former unit chair at Windsor Regional Hospital and was assisted by an active member and former chief steward, Janet Johnson. Along with Georgiu they took charge of contacting every Unifor member by phone.

The personal contact helped swing the vote toward IBEW. While Unifor organizers regularly staffed tables in the lobbies of hospital units, their phone contact was limited to a Sunday night robocall from their leading health care representative in Toronto.  IBEW and Unifor members, says Georgiu, contrasted the unions’ methods of contact and put their trust in IBEW.

Local 636 members’ wages and benefits outpaced those of Unifor office and clerical workers, with superior coverage for vision care, maternity top leave and sick leave payouts. But Unifor pitched the message that its status as Canada’s largest would better advance the workers’ interests.

Our motto, from the beginning of the campaign, says Georgiu, was, “It isn’t about the size of the union; it is about the representation you receive in your workplace. IBEW is good for you, good for your family and good for your future.”

“We had the trust of our members and they formed the solid, unwavering core of our campaign,” says Georgiu, crediting Local 636 Business Manager-Financial Secretary Barry Brown with focusing all necessary resources on the win.

“We continue to build a strong foundation of trust and fairness along with communication to ensure that our members are up-to-date on important issues that affect them,” says Georgiu.

Visit IBEW’s YouTube channel to view a video about the Windsor hospital organizing campaign.