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THUNDER BAY Three months into the North of Superior Programs strike, the Board of Directors made no moves at a meeting last night to end the strike, allowing a crisis in mental health and support services to continue indefinitely in Northwestern Ontario, warns the union representing 30 NOSP workers on strike since June 26th.

I was shocked at the level of dysfunction of this Board, and the ineffectiveness of their meeting last night, says Diane Atkinson, a social worker and spokesperson for Local 3253 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). They didnt even allow members of the public, clients or workers to raise questions or address the Board instead they had police at the door and told us wed be thrown out of the meeting if we said anything.

CUPE is astounded that no agenda was distributed, no correspondence was discussed (the Board chair said there was none), a financial statement was rushed through and raised more questions than it answered, no questions were taken from people in attendance, and three resolutions about the strike were to be put on the agenda for the next meeting something that wont happen for another month. There was talk of deficits, but someone pointed out that the Agency repeatedly returned unused funds to the ministries, claiming surpluses whats really going on here?, says Pike.

The 36 workers offer mental health, addiction counselling and integrated services for children in communities all along the north shore of Lake Superior, from Nipigon to Manitouwadge, including Geraldton, Longlac and Nakina. Clients have started moving out of the district to the City, because they have no access to the services they need.

Our Liberal MPP, Michael Gravelle, needs to answer for the fact that nobody is advocating for these services is it because theyre mental health services, or is it because were in Northwestern Ontario, says CUPE National Representative Dan Pike. Its time for him to go to Toronto and tell Ontario cabinet ministers to do their job and provide services to our community they cant hide behind the labour dispute and they must step in to save our communities from this dysfunctional board.”

CUPE understands that one resolution talks about exploring mediation/arbitration to resolve the impasse, but it wont be considered until a month later because they need time for the Executive Director to research the idea. This is preposterous, says Atkinson. Theyre three months into a strike and they still need a month to consider mediation/arbitration as a means to ending the strike?

CUPE has been reaching out to the public to urge local politicians to advocate for these important mental health and childrens services, and to urge local MPPs to get the Ontario government to act, before its too late.

The time for government intervention is way overdue, says Pike. Are they waiting for a suicide or other crisis before they get involved that would be a gross dereliction of their duty to serve the public. Its time for politicians to start representing all of their constituents. Wheres the accountability here?

For further information, please contact:

Dan Pike
CUPE National Rep.
613-293-3535 (cell)

Diane Atkinson
CUPE 3253 Spokesperson
807-229-7933 (cell)

Robert Lamoureux
CUPE Communications