GUELPH, Ont. – The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), representing Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis workers, will enter conciliation talks on September 27th, in a bid to avert a strike or lockout at the women’s shelter and seven offices across the county. The workers are fighting concession demands and their employer’s refusal to address workplace safety issues.
“Management must show leadership and provide a safe working environment for the sake of workers and clients,” said Jill Smyth, CUPE national representative. “Workers who provide emotional support and counselling to abused women, must be able to feel safe in their own workplace.” The workers recently voted 96 per cent in favour of strike action if contract talks fail to reach a settlement.
Management wants to cut bereavement leave, stop paying workers when they attend labour-management meetings, and reduce sick leave, among other concession demands, while refusing to address the workers’ health and safety concerns.
“Health and safety issues need to be addressed,” said Smyth. “Management has a responsibility to provide a safe working environment, free of harassment or the threat of physical or psychological abuse. Unfortunately, this employer has not lived up to that responsibility, and health and safety issues take on an even greater importance in a women’s shelter, because our members are helping clients who have escaped abusive and often violent environments to seek refuge.”
The 35 workers offer emotional support and counselling services in Guelph and across the county, including a full shelter program for abused women and children at Marianne’s Place, individual and group counselling for the Sexual Assault Centre, Transition and Housing Support Program and Rural Women’s Support Program. Their last contract expired on March 31st, 2006.
“Management negotiators need to take conciliation talks seriously, and they must come to the table prepared to deal with the outstanding issues,” said Smyth. “Otherwise, the shelter will face a disruption that will hurt our clients and our communities.”
For further information, please contact:
CUPE National Representative