CUPE Nova Scotia web banner. Images of 5 CUPE members at work, and the CUPE NS logo.Employees at Breton Ability Centre could be out on the picket lines in the new year if they can’t come to an agreement on local issues.

The employees held a strike vote last week and the vote was 98.5% in favour of possible job action. There are 338 employees at the residential center, who care for adults with disabilities. They are represented by CUPE 3513, and funded by the Department of Community Services.

Kathy MacLeod, representative for CUPE, says the bargaining committee met with the employer in early December but were unable to come to agreement on several outstanding issues. “We have been promised conciliation dates, but in the meantime, the workers are frustrated with the lack of respect shown to them by both the employer and government,” says MacLeod. “Wages in this sector are well below what people are earning elsewhere for the same or similar work, and people are walking out for those better paying jobs.”

CUPE 3513 President Karen McMullen says the employees love the residents, but the work is hard. “The jobs are very physical, but they also require a high level of skill and responsibility,” she says. “Along with managing personal hygiene, meals and activities, we also administer and manage medications and treatments. We often deal with high behaviours and may be exposed to violence. We deserve to be compensated fairly.” The Breton Ability Centre is the second largest adult residential centre in the province. Along with residential care workers, the employee group comprises cooks, dietary workers, housekeepers, and laundry and maintenance workers.