OTTAWA, Ont. – A strike date of October 4 has been set after bargaining talks collapsed between management and Local 1521.01 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), representing 87 community outreach, case management workers, and support staff at the Ottawa branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). With a high voter turnout, the workers voted 99 per cent in favour of strike action if a fair deal cannot be reached with the employer.
“Our employer has failed to recognize fundamental principles of fairness in the selection of applicants for job postings, layoffs, recall from layoff, and professional development,” said Paddy York, CUPE 1521.01 spokesperson. “Their system is based on favouritism. They handpick who they want without regard to seniority. The principle of fairness, which gives preference to qualified employees who have most contributed to the delivery of service, is a fundamental principle of sound human resource management.”
“Our members pay between $300 and $400 out of pocket each month in gas and parking charges to visit the most vulnerable people in Ottawa, people who deal with severe and persistent mental illness, substance use disorders, conflicts with the law and developmental disabilities, and who are homeless or threatened with homelessness,” said York. “As a condition of employment we are required to own vehicles in order to visit clients and to drive them to essential community therapies. We are paying to provide the employer’s services from our own take home pay, and that’s one of the reasons we’re heading for a strike,” added York.
Excessive workload is another key issue. Workers are expected to meet much more stringent documentation requirements without adjustments to case loads. “Our members often skip breaks and lunch, or work extended hours without overtime to make sure our clients are well served,” said York. “This has to stop.”
“The time has come for CMHA Ottawa Branch management to walk the talk”, said Jean-Marc Bézaire, CUPE national representative. “In the performance of their work, CUPE members are advocates for equity, respect and social justice for the most vulnerable citizens in our community. The time has come for CMHA management to treat its own employees with those same values, or their advocacy work will collapse.”
“Until CMHA management moves to resolve these issues, our members will be adopting escalating measures, up to and including a strike if necessary, to press for a fair settlement,” said Bézaire.
“We hope CMHA management will come to their senses before we face a service disruption.”
For further information, please contact:
Jean-Marc Bézaire, CUPE National Representative: 613-237-0115, 613-293-8163 (cell)
Robert Lamoureux, CUPE Communications: 416-292-3999