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From a meeting at a Perkins coffee shop in Winnipeg to voting to form a union, it took only 20 days for the 160 employees of 1010 Sinclair Housing Inc. to become certified as CUPE 4376.

The new CUPE members are personal care aides, housekeeping, maintenance and clerical employees who work in transitional housing for people with disabilities. Many of the tenants who live at 1010 Sinclair the address of the agencys main apartment complex are newly disabled, some quadriplegic as the result of car crash injuries. They require a wide range of health and personal care needs,

24-hours a day, while making the transition to as independent a new lifestyle as possible.

The workers, who often become close and are dedicated to the tenants they work with, had previously considered forming a union says CUPE organizer Peter Tartsch. They made their choice this summer after struggling for years to get decent pay increases without success.

I think its going to be of great benefit to our members, new local president Howard Ruben says. This place has been around for 25 years so its long overdue.

Their wages are quite low compared to others in the community health care sector, says CUPE rep Ann Robins, who is working with the local to negotiate their first contract. The top pay scale for personal care aides is only $10 an hour.

Robins says the aides must know complex medical procedures and be able to meet the needs of whomever they are assigned to at any given time. Because 1010 Sinclairs concept is based on an independent living philosophy, the tenants form their own committees and determine the care

and staff to work with them.

Peter and Ann have been absolutely great with assisting us and helping

set up our negotiations team, Ruben

says. I am looking forward to the entire process.

Doreen Meyer