Fracas at the soccer field

Volunteer painting lines says she was harassed by strikers

North York soccer mom Pat Woo just wanted to maintain fields so kids could play at Esther Shiner Stadium during the strike.

But a striking worker saw Woo doing her volunteer duties for the North York Hearts Soccer Club and Woo said the situation became confrontational.

One week into the 39-day strike another volunteer started cutting the grass and Woo used a paint line striper on seven soccer fields so the boundaries and goal lines would be maintained for games.

This was a time consuming process, Woo said, as it took about eight hours to maintain existing lines on three hectares of fields.
“The first day I was here many hours,” she said.

The fields were next to a temporary garbage dump and four CUPE local 416 picketers asked Woo if she belonged to their union. They assumed she was a city worker who crossed the picket lines to maintain the soccer fields.

That misunderstanding was resolved without incident, she said, it was another worker who took issue with her volunteer efforts.

Throughout the strike she would reline the seven fields each week and on July 25 a striker saw her in action and confronted her.

“He is the lead hand for the stadium,” Woo said Aug. 5. “He was coming out everyday and checking the fields.

“He saw me and said, ‘You are the one lining the fields.”

He told her this is his job and called her a “scab”.

“I said I understand it’s your work but you guys are on strike,” she told him.

He expressed his frustration with the city and his union local over the labour disruption and told Woo he never wanted to strike.

“He was taking his frustration out on me,” Woo said. “I told him I am doing this for the kids.

“If we don’t line the fields within a week and half the lines disappear with the amount of rain we’ve had it washes away,” she added, noting her son has played soccer for his team the past 15 years.

His soccer club has a 12-week season and with community centres, camps and pools shut down due to the strike, and Woo said she felt having fields was important.

Woo and the worker have seen each other since the incident now that he’s back on the job. Attempts to confirm the identity of the worker and hear his side were unsuccessful.

Woo doesn’t want to file a complaint with the city as she wants to stay on friendly terms with the worker.

However, Flynn Beharry a director with the soccer club said he formally complain to the city regarding the situation.

“I will put a letter together,” he said. “I will send one to the mayor (David Miller) and (parks director) Malcolm Bromley.

“What they do with that is up to them,” he added. “I’m going to express my displeasure with what happened. I think some disciplinary action should be taken.”

Leisa Tjoeng, a spokesperson for the city, said there have been no similar strike-related complaints from residents trying to maintain services and confrontations with striking workers.

“We aren’t aware of any complaints like the one you put to our attention,” she said Aug. 6. “If residents or volunteers would like to write a letter we would definitely take a look at it. The resident can also contact the union if they have any concerns regarding actions taken (by a union member).”

About this article:

By: Kris Scheuer
Posted: Aug 13 2009 4:20 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto