Local March of Dimes workers, members of Local 1880 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), have requested the assistance of a provincial conciliation officer to mediate negotiations, following threats of a lockout by management during recent contract talks.
“We are dedicated employees of the March of Dimes, and we’ve been trying to negotiate a fair collective agreement with our employer for years,” said Lori McGrath, CUPE 1880 spokesperson. “We are at the breaking point, and asking the people of Sault Ste. Marie to help us avoid a shutdown, after our employer threatened to lock us out if we didn’t accept major concessions in bargaining. We fear for the continuity and quality of our services, and that’s why we are reaching out to the community for support.”
CUPE filed for conciliation following threats by the employer to lock the workers out, if they did not accept major concessions and a multi-year wage freeze.
“Our services are so important to the people who rely on us and we worry about the impact a lockout would have on them,” said McGrath. “We reluctantly took a strike vote following our employer’s hard-line approach to bargaining, and we hope that will pressure management and the board of directors at March of Dimes to negotiate a settlement. The workers voted 96 per cent in favour of a strike, if mediated contract talks fail to reach a fair settlement.
CUPE members at the Sault Ste. Marie March of Dimes offer independent living, attendant and support services for persons with physical disabilities, acquired brain injuries, as well as high-risk seniors within the community. They also offer employment and vocational rehabilitation services to assist people with disabilities to achieve greater independence by providing job training, education and employment.
“These workers have been very patient since their last contract expired in March, 2011,” said CUPE National Representative Laura Delhenty. “Management is demanding major concessions, including cuts to benefits, expanding hours of work without overtime, cuts to holidays and sick days, and attacks on our employment security – it shows a total lack of respect for our members and their work.”
“We have been more than reasonable in negotiations, and are not asking for much,” said McGrath. “What we are looking for is basic fairness and respect. We are committed to reaching a negotiated settlement, but for that to happen we need a willing partner across the table. CUPE is calling on residents to contact the March of Dimes President and CEO Andria Spindel, Chair of the Board of Directors John Humphries, and the new Director of Human Resources Chris Harrison, to urge them to stop the lockout threats, and to negotiate in good faith to reach a fair settlement that will protect services.