Shelter workers at A Place Called Home, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), are seeking to improve their working conditions in contract talks, to better serve the homeless clients that stay at the shelter and those who are at risk of becoming homeless.
“A Place Called Home should be a safe place to work for staff helping people seeking shelter,” said Emily Demoe, CUPE 855.01 unit chair. “Our members are united to improve our working conditions, not only to make our shelter a safer place to work, but also a safer living environment for residents.”
The front-line workers are asking management to address safety and workload issues by adding more staff and implementing less complicated protocols to help workers better serve clients. Currently, outside of regular office hours, there is only one staff to serve all the needs of residents at the 19-bed shelter for the homeless, serving predominantly men and youth. The client support worker usually works alone during non-office hours, and is responsible for preparing and serving dinner and snacks, kitchen clean up, rooms and facilities maintenance, crisis intervention, intake and assessment of new clients and ensuring the safety of the men, women and children who are at the shelter.
“It is difficult for one staff to effectively and safely look after all the needs of nineteen clients outside of business hours,” continued Demoe. “There are times when our members have to deal with crisis situations and mediate disagreements with residents, who themselves are going through difficult times, and it is impossible for one worker, usually a woman, to manage unexpected problems and still provide regular services like meals, cleaning and maintaining operations of the two hostel buildings.”
CUPE 855.01 represents 16 part-time and full-time workers who are client support workers, providing shelter services, and program staff working in programs like Youth in Transition, Identification Clinic and Emergency Home Energy Resource program. CUPE 855.01 applied for the services of a provincial conciliator to assist both parties to reach a fair contract, as talks have reached an impasse, with management refusing to address outstanding issues including safety, workload and pensions. The workers’ last contract expired on December 31, 2012.
“We are asking our employer to address safety concerns by providing us with additional resources to help not only manage our heavy workload, but also better serve our clients, which will make them and us feel safer when there are more staff to deal with problems,” concluded Demoe. “Our members will attend the agency’s board meeting this Wednesday evening to personally seek their help to make A Place Called Home a safer place to work and a safer environment for the people who rely on our shelter.”
For further information, please contact:
Emily Demoe, CUPE 855.01 Unit Chair, 905-269-1047
Alison Davidson, CUPE National Representative, 705-760-5113
James Chai, CUPE Communications, 905-739-3999