CALGARY – Counsellors and support staff at the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter have voted 88% in favour of a strike.
Lou Arab, Communications Representative for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) announced the results at a news conference today saying employees are seeking a liveable wage to address the constant turnaround in staffing levels within the society.
“In a survey of our members, 79% of the full time staff reported to us that they needed to take a second job to pay their bills,” said Arab. “When you add that to an extremely stressful work environment, it’s no surprise they can’t keep any staff.”
Arab pointed out that of 49 staff currently on the union’s seniority list; 35 were hired in the last three years because previous employees burnt out and left.
“Our members care about their clients and the work they do,” said Arab. “They don’t want to burn out, and they need a liveable wage so they don’t have to rely upon second jobs or the food bank.”
The union says their members earn less than other non-profit employees in Calgary working in less stressful positions, and says that the shelter could afford better wages if it reformed its management structure. Arab says the shelter has one manager for every 1.75 full time equivalent non-management positions.
“How does it benefit battered women and their children to have so many managers, including two public relations positions,” asked Arab. “People who donate to the Society need to understand that 48% of the Shelter’s wage bill goes to managers, and not to front line staff. Fully one third of every dollar given to the society goes into salaries and benefits of managers.”
Arab said a strike is still a last resort, and hopes to be able to pressure the shelter to increase wages without job action.
“We are raising these concerns because we care about the clients,” said Arab. “So the last thing we want to do is anything that will further disrupt their attempts to get their lives back in order.”