One of Ontario’s Largest Public Sector Unions Speaks Out About NPCA’s ‘Unhealthy Workplace’

OPSEU leaders call on province’s Liberal government to do something about” impacts on employee health” at Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority

A Call for Government Action from the Ontario Public Service Employees Uniont (OPSEU)

Posted September 6th, 2016 on Niagara At Large

For the past couple of years, the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) has been at the centre of a great deal of public controversy. The NPCA has been accused of improper use of public funds, disrespect for the democratic rights of citizens, and a pro-development bias that is ignoring environmental concerns in a region that has already lost 90 per cent of its wetlands.

One of many public demonstrations- this one last year in front of the NPCA offices in Welland –  fueled by concerns over how the Conservation Authority does business with millions of our municipal tax dollars – this one last year in front of the NPCA offices in Welland. Photo by Doug Draper

The public turmoil swirling around the NPCA is matched by a difficult and unhealthy workplace environment.

In early 2017, the OPSEU health and safety unit contacted Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) for assistance with a survey of employees at the NPCA. The purpose of the survey was to determine whether workplace conditions at the NPCA were associated with impacts on employee health.

OHCOW is a multidisciplinary health clinic funded by Ontario’s Ministry of Labour. OHCOW proposed that OPSEU use a survey based on the Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire (COPSOQ), which the union conducted from March 28 to April 9, 2017.

OPSEU president Smokey Thomas speaks to demonstrators outside a Ball’s Falls hall where the NPCA board was meeting this past spring. Photo by Doug Draper

The survey was completed by 86.5 per cent of frontline staff and middle management. As a result of this very strong response rate, the findings are statistically accurate. Senior managerial staff were not surveyed.

Top issues

  • Eighty-seven (87) per cent of respondents agreed that the organization tolerates behaviour that is harmful to mental health.
  • Eighty (80) per cent said they had witnessed offensive behaviours such as undesired sexual attention, threats of violence, bullying, and discrimination.
  • Almost 68 per cent said they had experienced bullying in the last year – more than twice the Canadian average of 31 per cent.
  • Sixty (60) per cent stated that staffing levels at the NPCA are inadequate for the workload.
  • Fifty-five (55) per cent of respondents described the workplace as “toxic.” That is ten times the average rate among Canadian workers.
  • Over a third said senior management discriminated against employees because of union activity, favourtism, and/or gender.
  • In their responses to the survey, employees described a low-trust work environment characterized by a lack of fairness and a lack of job security – both of which were associated with negative health outcomes.
  • Creating a healthy workplace environment at the NPCA

Frontline staff at the NPCA want a workplace environment that is built on trust, fairness, mutual respect, and clear, transparent processes and policies.

A meeting of the NPCA board this past January, 2017

The union is asking the NPCA to work cooperatively with its employees and their bargaining agent to create that workplace. To begin that work, OPSEU has called on the NPCA to acknowledge the validity of the survey results, and agree to participate in a joint employer-union steering committee to develop concrete strategies for moving forward.

Further, OPSEU is calling on all stakeholders – area municipalities and MPPs, the NPCA Board of Directors, and concerned citizens – to support the transformation that the NPCA so desperately needs.

We sent the results of the OHCOW survey to the following people:

  • All NPCA Board members
  • All Niagara Regional Council members
  • All Haldimand County Council members
  • All Hamilton City Council members
  • All MPPs in the NPCA catchment area

We are asking NCPA Board members to direct their senior management team to take the steps needed to address the unhealthy workplace the NPCA has become.

We are asking the municipal and regional councillors who appoint NPCA Board members to encourage them to demand accountability from NPCA senior management for their refusal to adequately address their unhealthy workplace.

We are asking area MPPs to support MPP Cindy Forster’s call on the provincial government to temporarily appoint a supervisor to oversee operations at the NPCA in order to restore accountability and trust – not only between management and staff, but between the NPCA and the public.

A Footnote from Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper – In my 38 years of working as a journalist in the Niagara, Ontario region, I have covered numerous public bodies at all levels of government on both sides of the Ontario/New York State border, and have interviewed elected and non-elected government representatives right up to and including assistants to prime ministers of Canada and members of cabinet for presidents of the United States.

Ontario Natural Resources Minister Kathryn McGarry meets Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority board chair and Fort Erie regional councilor Sandy Annunziata at an event in the province earlier this year. Perhaps, McGarry should meet with a group of Niagara citizens and representatives of the union representing NPCA employees to hear their concerns about the NPCA.

And in all that time, I have never had the misfortune to deal with a public body as ugly and reprehensible as this Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority under its current executive administrators and a board of directors that includes several elected members of municipal government in Niagara.

What is just as disgusting is the unwillingness of the Ontario Liberal government of Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Kathryn McGarry, to clean house at the NPCA despite repeated calls to them for action from Niagara area citizens, a majority of Niagara’s local municipalities and the union representing employees at this hell hole of an organization.


For your information, here is a link you can click on to find out who sits on the board of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. – .

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 “A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders



One response to “One of Ontario’s Largest Public Sector Unions Speaks Out About NPCA’s ‘Unhealthy Workplace’

  1. A thug is a thug where ever you might be and an arrognant, Ignorant, loud mouthn Thug is basically a very weak individual who uses vile rhetoric to announce his presence. I have little, actually NO respect for big mouths.


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