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HAMILTON, Ont. Womens shelter workers who provide counselling and support services to abused women and children, could be facing a strike in January, if a contract is not reached with the Good Shepherd Centres, warned the union representing the 40 workers. Conciliation talks are set to begin December 21st.

Weve been trying to negotiate a first collective agreement since May, said Vickie Houston, vice-president of Local 5167 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). Good Shepherd management has made the talks very difficult by continuing to offer substandard wages. We will do our best to achieve a collective agreement in conciliation, but were preparing for a strike.

Wage parity with other social service workers is the main outstanding issue. Workers in the Good Shepherd Homes, providing similar services in a less stressful environment, are paid $5 an hour more. Workers from other womens shelters in Hamilton and neighbouring municipalities are paid 30 to 70 per cent more.

This is an issue of fairness and equity, said Houston. Treating these women unfairly contradicts the work and mission of the Good Shepherd. Management must lead by example and show respect for their own workers with a fair contract offer.

The women provide services to abused women and children in Martha House, Marys Place and Somerville House in Hamilton. Negotiators are trying to achieve the first collective agreement for the women since they unionized in October 2003, to attain fair wages and better working conditions.

Our members are dedicated to helping abused women and children on a daily basis, and its unfortunate the people we help will be the first to suffer if were forced to go on strike, said Houston. But workers also need to be paid fair wages that reflect their skills, experience and workload.

For further information, please contact:

Vickie Houston
CUPE Local 5167
905-536-3815 cell

Gerry McDonnell
CUPE National Representative

James Chai
CUPE Communications