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THUNDER BAY Negotiators for Local 3253 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), representing 36 social service and mental health workers at North of Superior Programs, say a strike is likely inevitable after their employer tabled what amounts to wage rollbacks in a three-year contract, an offer even worse than one previously tabled in conciliation talks. Talks have broken down and yesterday the workers voted 93% in favour of strike action, setting a strike deadline of June 26th.

We have tried to reach a negotiated settlement, but management has set the stage for a strike that will hurt the most vulnerable people in our communities, says CUPE National Representative Dan Pike. These workers have already made significant sacrifices in the past, being forced to take 5 days a year of unpaid leave for years in effect a long standing 2% wage cut, and this is the thanks we get a contract that would mean the wage rollbacks continue. Its a slap in the face. No further talks have been scheduled at this point.

The workers offer mental health, addiction counselling and integrated services for children in communities all along the north shore of Lake Superior, from Nipigon to Manitouwage, including Geraldton, Longlac and Nakina. Local 3253 has begun strike training and is preparing for what could be a long struggle.

North of Superior Programs is governed by a Board of Directors made up of local community representatives. Funding comes from the Ontario ministry of Community and Social Services and the ministry of Health.

We have lost positions in the past, yet our workload has continued to increase, says Diane Atkinson, CUPE 3253 spokesperson. We cannot understand why our important services are being undermined this way the people of the North deserve better.

We have tried to avoid a strike, but it now looks inevitable, says Atkinson. We have lost so much ground to inflation already, and we have our own families to take care of enough is enough.

No mediation talks have been scheduled. The workers will appeal to area residents to contact politicians and board members to get them involved and try and prevent a dispute.

A strike is the last thing we want, because we care for some very vulnerable people and they dont deserve this, says Atkinson. But we cannot accept this contract its not fair to us and its not fair to the people we serve.


For further information, please contact:
Dan Pike
CUPE National Rep.

Diane Atkinson
CUPE 3253 spokesperson

Robert Lamoureux
CUPE Communications