SAULT STE-MARIE, Ont. - The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), representing 34 workers at Windsor Park Retirement Inc., has asked the Ontario Ministry of Labour to assign a conciliation officer to assist with negotiations between the union and the owner of the home, Algoma University College, after the university refused to adequately address the issue of low wages in contract talks.
“Essentially, Algoma University is playing hardball with this predominantly female workforce, trying to perpetuate low wages, inadequate benefits and ridiculous sick leave provisions,” said Rick Alexander, CUPE National Representative. “Many of our members earn less than 10 dollars an hour and have only 2 sick days a year, in a profession that is high stress, high exposure to injury and illness. We’re not asking for huge gains here, but we need to work towards parity with similar institutions in our community - so far we’re way behind.”
The workers have been working without a contract since March 31st, 2005. The retirement home was donated to the University as a 3.8 million dollar gift earlier this year. CUPE is concerned the university will soon divest itself of the home, without addressing low pay and benefit issues.
“We urge the university to take an active interest in the operation of this home,” said Alexander. “It shouldn’t be seen as a simple financial asset without considering the impact management decisions will have on staff, residents and the community.”
The workers, including personal support workers, nurses (RN’s and RPN’s), cooks, cleaners, housekeepers, servers and meals on wheels staff, have begun strike preparations in case conciliation and mediation talks fail to break the impasse.
“Our members are facing a very uncertain future, with the transfer to the university, and the possibility of another sale of business in the future,” said Alexander. “Having received the retirement home as a gift, at no cost to the university, we feel Algoma University College has a responsibility to manage this home responsibly, and to address issues of low pay and inferior wages and working conditions.”
No dates for conciliation have been confirmed, but the union hopes to return to the table soon. “The last thing we want is for uncertainty and instability to affect the residents our members care for,” said Alexander. “High staff turnover is one of the results of the low wage problem, and that’s not good for residents. The university needs to come to the table with a fair deal - that’s best for our members, and for residents.”
For further information, please contact:
CUPE National Representative
705-949-6221 or 705-943-5515 (cell)