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Strike conflicts with island life

MARYSVILLE, Ont. -- Wolfe Islanders won't be seeing more frequent trips to the mainland as long as the month-long O...

MARYSVILLE, Ont. — Wolfe Islanders won’t be seeing more frequent trips to the mainland as long as the month-long Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) strike continues to drag on.

While conceding that island residents are suffering “grief and hardship” as a result of reduced ferry service, the Ontario Labour Relations Board has rejected an attempt by the provincial government to reopen the essential services agreement governing ferry operations.

Board chairman Kevin Whitaker ruled the government hadn’t made the case that health and safety were being jeopardized by the reduced service.

“Certainly there may be a point where serious and real hardship and privation renders the employer unable to prevent danger to life, health and safety,” Whitaker writes in a three-page judgment. “After a careful review of the information and material before me, I find that the employer has not discharged its onus of demonstrating that this line has been crossed.”

The ferry now runs nine times a day through the week, three times on Saturday and five times on Sunday. Islanders want the service restored to at least what it was during the 1996 OPSEU strike, when it ran 14 times on weekdays and eight on weekends.

Islanders argue that the provincially operated ferry should be considered part of the provincial highway system and it would be unacceptable for striking workers to slow or stop traffic on any conventional roadway.

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