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Espanola – Services to people with developmental disabilities are in disarray although the administration of Community Living Espanola has spent an estimated $125,000 to sustain a strike that includes hiring dozens of scab labour and three security guard investigators, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has found.

Based on information obtained by CUPE, hiring scabs and security is costing Community Living Espanola over $31,000 each week. That amount is $11,000 more than if the agency’s own staff were providing front line services.

CUPE National staff representative Michelle Loiselle says the numbers show that, in the long-run, it will cost the agency more to run a strike than to reach a contract settlement with the agency’s striking staff who are members of CUPE 2462.

For an agency that says they can’t give workers a decent wage increase because they will incur a deficit, sinking money into maintaining a strike doesn’t sound like good economic planning,” says Loiselle. She points out that the two sides are only 1 per cent apart on wages.

So you have to wonder what the motivation for keeping the front line staff out on strike really is. The agency administration and the board of directors are not thinking about what is best for the clients. They are also putting the future of the agency in jeopardy by keeping this strike going,” says Loiselle. She adds that it’s the individuals CUPE 2462 members provide services and support to who are really paying the price through the diminished services the agency is now providing them using inexperienced scab labour.

The hidden cost, in addition to the actual dollar amounts it takes to keep the scabs in motels and pay their wages, is being paid by the clients and their families. From the information we’re getting, the quality of the services they are receiving is incredibly poor. This is the real heartbreaker for our members who care very deeply about the well-being of the individuals they work with,” says Loiselle.

There are only three outstanding issues in dispute, so a settlement is “very attainable,” says Loiselle. They include a modest 2 per cent wage increase, no concessions, and an agreement to address staff scheduling and staff recruitment issues. While at the bargaining table, in an effort to address the scheduling and staff recruitment problems, CUPE had tabled a constructive mediated process that would also deal with the poor state of labour relations at the agency.

The negotiators for the agency turned down every avenue we proposed that would lead to a settlement. They basically negotiated a strike and are now paying scabs and security rather than the qualified dedicated staff who provide quality programs and supports,” says Loiselle.

For more information, please contact:
Michelle Loiselle, CUPE National Representative - (705) 562-1390
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications - (416) 578-8774