LONDON, Ont. – Huron Perth Children’s Aid Society workers, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), are preparing for a strike over deteriorating working conditions, after conciliation talks with their employer broke down on October 4. The union requested a ‘no-board’ report from the provincial conciliator, triggering a countdown to a legal strike or lockout that could start at the end the month.
“This employer is not interested in resolving critical issues such as workload, low wages and staff retention that affect working conditions at the agency,” said Laurel LeBeau, president of CUPE 1427. “Conciliation talks led to nowhere because the employer presented a take it or leave it package that did not address any of our members’ concerns – it was as if management did not hear any of our issues during months of bargaining.”
Union representatives have been bargaining with the employer since April. The 90 child protection and administrative support workers are seeking to improve working conditions, including:
- Hiring of additional staff to help relieve on-call duties for existing staff. Current on-call responsibilities for staff include being available for phone and house in-take duties after working their regular day shifts – this leads to staff working and being available for emergency 24 hours a day, while they are still expected to work the following day.
- Addressing low wages for the administrative staff. Support workers at the agency earn 10 per cent less than their counterparts in other CAS agencies from surrounding communities.
- The elimination of wage gap between front line employees.
Currently children’s service workers earn 10 per cent less than family service in-take staff, even though both groups of workers are there to serve children and families seeking help from the agency.
“On top of it all, management is trying to deny paid vacation for workers returning from maternity leave,” said LeBeau. “This is an issue that we already won at arbitration, and the employer is determined to renew its attack on working women – it’s despicable. It’s also ironic that this attack is coming from an agency that is suppose to serve the interests of children and families.
“The agency already has trouble retaining staff because of low wages, poor morale and unhealthy working conditions – yet they continue to ignore the critical issues that have put us in this dismal situation,” said LeBeau. “We are prepared to come back to the mediation table to prevent a strike that will hurt our clients, community and agency, but so far management has refused to come back to negotiate before the strike deadline.”
Laurel LeBeau, President CUPE 1427: 519-891-0057
Jennifer Kaufmann, CUPE National Representative: 519-433-1753
James Chai, CUPE Communications: 416-292-3999