Meet Darrell, a 15-year veteran of the Trent custodial department. Since 1997, this man has kept your garbages empty, kept your floors swept, kept your toilets clean, and all those other little things you take for granted as a student. You may have seen him around: that beard is hard to miss. What you may not know is he survived cancer in his 20s; a battle that lasted 10 years and involved the removal of 48 tumours; a battle that destroyed any chance of him enjoying a family life, another thing many of us take for granted. A self-described army brat, Darrell has fought all of his life’s battles with honour and integrity. He has been living in the Peterborough community off and on for over 50 years, which means he was here before Trent.
Darrell is a member of OPSEU Local 365 in Peterborough, and Arthur asked him about his experience as a member of a union.
“I appreciate the union because it is a venue between the worker and management where things can be expressed with an arbitrator, and it seems to work better that way … [because] ideas are compiled for the group rather than individual[ly].” “Before, working for contractors and trying to make a living myself, … [I] more or less needed a partnership.” A partnership with other contractors and maintenance personnel like himself would allow more employment opportunities and to split business expenses. “If you are just an individual trying to negotiate something with a manager or a supervisor … it’s their word against yours, and when it comes down to that it’s always the higher authority that wins over.”
In March, 2010, OPSEU wages were frozen by the Provincial Government for 2 years. The union was allowed to negotiate pay raises during this time, but no pay raise would be effective for a period of 2 years. OPSEU renegotiated, asking for a wage increase of 9%. They got 7.75% over four years. “That didn’t even give us the cost of living increase [for] the past two years. Everything has gone up.” But if it weren’t for the union, Darrell and his colleagues wouldn’t have received even the 7.75% increase, which is effectively over a 4 year timeline due to the wage freeze. He’ll continue to soldier on though, and you can be sure that he loves the atmosphere that this school provides in large part because of the students.