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THUNDER BAY Theres no end in sight for the North of Superior Programs (NOSP) strike, after management maintained their position of 0% increases for the first two-years of a contract that still called for unpaid days and made workers lose ground to inflation, warns the union representing social service and support workers on strike since June 26th, after talks broke down again yesterday.

Increased risk of suicides, unanswered calls for help, crisis referrals going nowhere thats what our communities are facing as this strike drags on, says Diane Atkinson, a social worker and spokesperson for Local 3253 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). Is the Board of Directors waiting for someone to die before they settle this strike? Wheres the accountability here?

The 36 workers offer mental health, addiction counselling and integrated services for children in communities all along the north shore of Lake Superior, from Nipigon to Manitouwadge, including Geraldton, Longlac and Nakina. The workers predict the crisis will intensify with the return to classes in September, when demand for services often spike.

Other social service agencies in the province have been able to settle contracts with wage increases that at least keep up with inflation, says CUPE National Representative Dan Pike, citing a recent contract settlement in Manitoulin-Sudbury, where social service workers negotiated a contract with a 14% wage increase and benefit improvements. In contrast, North of Superior Programs workers have been forced to take five days of unpaid leave a year and make other wage sacrifices. Someone has to get to the bottom of what this agency is doing with its budget.

Theres something fishy going on here, says Pike. Despite increased funding from the province, NOSP management has not substantially changed their position since negotiations began perhaps its time to call in an independent auditor to find out what theyre really doing with their money?

The people in our communities who need our services dont deserve this, says Atkinson. The Board of Directors is not living up to its responsibilities. Its time for local politicians to step in and represent the people in our communities who need mental health services, the children who need access to health and social services, and the families dealing with problems of gambling and addiction. Why are they being left out in the cold?

For further information, please contact:

Dan Pike
CUPE National Rep.
613-293-3535 (cell)

Diane Atkinson
CUPE 3253 spokesperson
807-229-7933 (cell)

Robert Lamoureux
CUPE Communications