The Ministry of Social Services intends to close the doors on the Regina Welfare Rights Centre, an agency that has provided advocacy and support for low-income people in the city for more than 35 years.
“It’s a decision that will hurt the most vulnerable people in our community and those most in need of services,” said CUPE staff representative Guy Marsden.
The Regina Welfare Rights Centre helps residents on social assistance find affordable housing, manage their finances and deal with a range of family support problems.
The union workers at the centre, members of CUPE 4973, learned yesterday the Ministry of Social Services had notified the agency earlier this month it planned to stop funding the centre in 90 days. No reason was given.
It’s the latest blow for the centre’s staff who joined CUPE less than a year ago and have been facing months of threats and intimidation from an employer that appears determined to “bust the union” at any cost.
“We want the government to hold our board accountable for service delivery – but abolishing our agency harms the people we’ve worked so hard to help,” said Pam Belanger, CUPE 4973 president.
“It’s not fair to our clients or the staff who have served this community for many years,” added Lea Bage, a staff member and local union secretary-treasurer. “Our clients and core neighbourhoods need these services and we need these jobs.”
A new manager at the Centre, supported by an inexperienced volunteer board, has created a corrosive work environment for staff. In August, Belanger and Bage – both union executive members – were fired. The two staff members had 17 years combined experience helping the centre’s clients.
The labour relations board hearing into their wrongful dismissal concluded November 4. A decision is pending.
CUPE wants the Ministry to reconsider its decision. “You don’t close the legislature because of one bad MLA and you should not be closing the Welfare Rights Centre because of bad management,” said Marsden.
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CUPE staff representative