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Toronto A dozen community agency workers began occupying the Metropolitan United Church Shelter (174 Church Street at Shuter) early this morning.

The workers, who are into the third week of a bitter strike against Central Neighbourhood House (which also operates the shelter) a multi-service agency in downtown Toronto, say that management is exploiting the homeless who reside at the facility by giving them money to perform cleaning and other maintenance tasks, and forcing them to cross a picket line in order to secure a bed.

The shelter is being kept open despite the fact that all other Central Neighbourhood House services are closed.

Whats happening at the shelter is pure exploitation of the homeless. No one should be forced to cross a picket line so that they have shelter and a bed. Its just morally wrong. Nor should the homeless be used as replacement workers. But this is what is happening because management is giving them a stipend to do work that is normally work of the staff who are on strike.

This is a dangerous situation that has created conflict and tension between the strikers and the residents, and resulted in picketers being punched and kicked. And it must stop, says Kelly OSullivan, president of Local 4308 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the union representing the striking shelter, home care, and child care workers.

The 150 workers, who make about $12 per hour, have had no wage increase for almost a decade, and 80 per cent receive no benefits. This is the first strike in the 90-year history of the community agency.

A rally in support of the strikers will be held today, Wednesday, July 9th, 12:00 noon, in front of the Metropolitan United Church, 174 Church Street at Shuter (the shelter now being occupied). Guest speakers at the rally will include Cathy Crowe with the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee, and Brian OKeefe, secretary-treasurer of CUPE Ontario.

Yesterday, at a media conference at Queens Park, OSullivan was among anti-poverty and labour activists who called on the provincial government for an immediate 10 per cent cash infusion into the four social areas, along with a full review of the way the services are funded.

Our social safety net is crumbling because community agencies are grossly underfunded by the Conservative government. As the homeless, the poor, children, and low-waged agency workers, we are the ones hurt most by it, says OSullivan.


For more information, please contact:
Kelly OSullivan, President, CUPE Local 4308 (416) 529-9015
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications (416) 578-8774