ITUNA, SK - After spending seven months on the picket line and another nine months with a labour relations board agent assigned to provide first contract assistance, group home workers at Deer Park Villa in Ituna have their first collective agreement. It takes effect on Saturday.
Everybody is happy with our first contract,” says union spokesperson Moira Markle. “It took an awfully long time – too long – but we achieved good seniority language and that makes it all worthwhile.”
Deer Park Villa operates three group homes and an activity centre in Ituna for adults with mental and physical challenges. Nearly all of the 27 employees work less than full-time.
On June 3, 2004, the recently unionized employees – members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 4552 – walked off the job after their employer refused to bargain contract language that would ensure the fair application of seniority in its hiring practices.
“Seniority is so important to us because there aren’t many jobs here and most of the work is low-paid and part-time,” says Markle, President of CUPE Local 4552.
The Deer Park Villa workers remained on the picket line for 221 days, before returning to work on January 10 and applying to the labour relations board for first contract assistance.
The labour relations board agent met with the two sides over several months and then made recommendations for a contract settlement, which neither side challenged. As a result, the labour relations board imposed a first agreement based on the recommendations.
The new contract requires the employer to recognize the most senior qualified candidate in The new contract requires the employer to recognize the most senior qualified candidate in.
CUPE staff representative Aina Kagis says it is always preferable to negotiate a contract at the table. “But when all else fails, the first contract assistance provided by the labour relations board is invaluable.”
The two-year agreement expires on September 30, 2007
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