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Superior Greenstone Association for Community Living (ACL) workers walked off the job on April 5 to fight their employer’s demands for “sleep shifts” with a 25 per cent reduction in pay. Members had previously voted 94 per cent in favour of a strike.

Sixty workers at the ACL offer care and support to clients with exceptional needs in residential settings. “We have concerns regarding the safety of clients,” says Susan Cyr, acting president of CUPE Local 3426. “The client base in Geraldton has much greater needs than many other area Associations.”

The workers have been trying to reach an agreement with their employer since November 2000. “The employer’s proposal is simply a disguised wage slash,” says Cyr.

Workers provide 24-hour care, earning a 10 cent an hour premium for night shift. The employer’s proposed sleep shift would pay night shift workers 25 per cent less than regular wages and have them sleep at the residence. Aside from the cut in pay, sleep shifts raise serious safety concerns, both for clients and staff as many clients require constant supervision.

According to CUPE Representative Howard Matthews, the employer walked away from the bargaining table stating the Ministry of Community and Social Services was demanding the union accept their proposal.

I have never seen a ministry interfere with negotiations to this extent,” says Matthews. “If the ministry wants to call the shots they should be at the bargaining table. The effect is bad faith bargaining.”

Local union activists and public supporters joined workers in a solidarity march down the main street of Geraldton on April 11.