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AMHERST - The women who operate Autumn House womens shelter (Cumberland County Transition House) have served notice to the NS provincial government that they will take strike action against their employer on August 28, unless a fair collective agreement is reached.

Were doing everything we can to avoid a strike, says Terry Cove, the president of CUPE local 4326, which represents the ten women. All were asking is for the government to intervene and if necessary, convince the employer to settle.

Cove says the government has provided funding to Autumn Houses Board of Directors for a 9.3% wage increase to cover the period 2001-2005. But Cove says the Board is refusing to pass on these increases to their employees. Instead, the Board wants to force 12-hour shifts on the workers and have an unfettered right to use volunteers. As well, the Board wants to reduce its coverage for long-term disability payments, and eliminate coverage for maternity leave.

Currently, the Autumn House workers have no pension plan, no Workers Compensation, and they dont have the customary time-and-a-half provisions for working overtime and statutory holidays. But Cove says the workers arent asking for any of those rights. We just want a status quo collective agreement, with the raises that the government has already agreed to fund, she says.

In an effort to avert a strike, CUPE 4326 workers will be meeting with representatives of the provincial government, including MLA Ernie Fage, who promised during the recent election campaign to help facilitate a settlement.

The workers of Autumn House operate a womens crisis line, and provide round-the-clock counseling and support services to battered women. They are currently working at 1998 wages, and have been without a contract since April 1, 2002.

For information:

Terry Cove, President CUPE Local 4326, (902) 667-7314 (h)
Terry Goulding, CUPE National Representative, (902) 752-2244 (o)