OTTAWA— Until recently, building special relationships was an important part of the care at three group homes and two childcare centres in Perth. Today, that care is being jeopardized because the operator of those social service facilities is so determined to punish its employees for forming a union, they seem oblivious to the harm they’re causing, said CUPE National Representative Bev Smale.
The employer, Tayside Community Residential and Support Options, broke off negotiations on January 24th and locked out the over sixty workers who were seeking their first collective agreement as CUPE Local 4474. With the exception of three workers, the employees are all women.
The lockout affects Davidson House, Brady House, Deakin House, and the junior and senior Taycare childcare centers. The social services workers provide round the clock care to residents who suffer from a diverse range of debilitating mental and physical handicaps. Childcare workers, some earning as little as $7 an hour, care for over 120 children who range in age from 18 months to 12 years old.
Replacement workers have already been brought in at the group homes and the employer plans to import workers from as far away as Kingston to replace childcare workers on Monday. Local 4474 workers plan a public information meeting the same day at 7:00 p.m. at St. James Church in Perth.
“These locked-out workers are more than dedicated professionals. They truly care for the special needs folks and children put in their care,” said Smale. “All we wanted was to reach a negotiated agreement, but we weren’t given a chance. The employer only wants to punish them because, after years of not being listened to, the workers felt they had no other choice but to form a union.”
“We’ve already given back one per cent of our pay for the last five years. But that wasn’t good enough,” said Debbie MacParland, a counselor at Davidson House. “Now, it seems our employer wants the cheapest care money can buy. We’ve already lost over 20 good workers over tension and frustration between the employees and the employer. These aren’t the kinds of standards any community should be proud of.”
Community support for the locked out workers has been growing. An increasing number of local businesses, schools and churches have been providing food, coffee and the use of their facilities.
“If Tayside is really interested in saving money, why are they wasting money on a $1,500-a-day consultant, hiring and housing scab labour and a lot of unnecessary security?” asked Martine Dal, President of Local 4474. “Didn’t the Ontario government give them almost $60,000 to wages for group homes? Do they care about the children? Do they care about the special needs folks under our care? And why won’t they let their board members speak to anyone about these issues?”
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Bev Smale, CUPE National Representative,
(613) 267-4261, Room 4
Joan Harvey, Counselor, Davidson House,
Shawna Ferguson, Taycare Daycare,