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Heather Abrey Photo

Heather Abrey Photo

OPSEU members at the Conestoga College picket line examine video while a woman who was struck by a vehicle is evaluated by paramedics. Other picketers believed they may have caught the incident on tape.

UPDATE: Picketer struck by vehicle, little progress made in bargaining

By Heather Abrey
Kitchener Post staff

A college support worker picketing at Conestoga College was struck by a car Monday just after 12 p.m. and taken to an urgent care centre with minor injuries.

Sherry Johnston, OPSEU local 238 president, said workers were concerned when a car, second in line, allegedly began edging up to the bumper of the car at the front it.

“They were doing their chit chat and the lady that was behind was right up this person’s bumper, laying on the horn,” Johnston said.

She said the car passed through the blockade and struck a picketer as she was crossing the street further up.

The driver didn’t stop after the incident, but OPSEU members were reviewing videotape, thinking they may have caught the incident on camera.

The victim sustained minor injuries to her arm and wrist, according to Johnston.

“It looks like one of the individuals was struck by the mirror of the vehicle as it was passing,” said Waterloo Regional Police spokesperson Olaf Heinzel, who noted that injuries were likely very minor.

While striking support staff at Conestoga have faced a few impatient drivers, nothing has compared to the incident Monday afternoon, according to Johnston.

Meanwhile, there was little progress this week in getting striking workers back to work.

Both sides have been speaking to a concilliator, according to Conestoga College president John Tibbits, but have yet to meet face to face.

The union is asking for a three per cent annual increase for three years, but also wants to address job security, pensions, compressed work weeks and more, according to Johnston.

The colleges offered a 4.75 per cent increase over three years, and Tibbits noted that union members didn’t have the chance to vote on the proposal.

But Johnston said there was no vote because it was not a complete offer, addressing only wages and not the other issues of concern.

“My members were a little confused. How come we’re not voting on that? Well, you’ve got to have a whole, complete package,” she said, adding that she believes the colleges played to public perception.

“They did it misleadingly and to make us look like we’re greedy little pigs.”

And while Conestoga has added 95 full-time positions over the last five years, Johnston explained that one has to consider the whole picture, and that there are support staff in other colleges across the province where part-time employees are being hired in place of full time.

Tibbits said he thinks that many employees are frustrated by the lack of a vote, which may be why some are crossing the picket line.

Conestoga released a letter that includes information about a worker’s right to cross, and Tibbits said that “a number” have done so, though he wouldn’t elaborate further, noting, “It’s not easy for those people.”

But Johnston disputed that there were many who had returned to work during the strike.

“We have one confirmed; we have others where we’ve heard the rumours. Eventually their names will come out,” she said, adding that it was wrong for the college to try to “entice” workers to cross the line.

“It’s not about being fined, it’s not about the college being behind you, it’s how people are going to reflect upon you. The one person we do know, I can hardly wait to see him and tell him exactly what I think of him.”

The one thing the two did agree on is that both sides need to come to the table.

Conestoga is operational and offering as many services as possible during the strike, said Tibbits, adding that students have been very patient, but the school has 377 support staff for a reason.

“We do miss the support staff,” he said.

“Obviously these are important people and it would be nice to have them back.”

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