The Autumn House womens shelter workers from Amherst, Nova Scotia on strike since August 11 took their fight all the way to the provincial legislature today.
Nova Scotia MLAs showed up for the first day of work since last months election, and discovered an information picket in front of Province House.
The 11 strikers handed out leaflets that asked the question, Would John Hamm still be premier if he had to raise his salary through bake sales? Thats because transition house workers in the province depend on fundraising to pay for their salaries, since the government only provides shelters with 75% of funds. The strikers want the government to increase the amount of money it provides to transition houses.
Terry Cove, the president of CUPE 4326, says the protest was a huge success. Workers talked to Hamm, as well as David Morse, the minister of community services, and Carolyn Bolivar-Getson, the minister of human resources. They also met with Darrell Dexter, the NDP opposition leader, and Danny Graham, the leader of the Liberal Party.
Since Hamms Conservatives only have a minority government, its vital that the women make their case to all parties. The New Democrats support the strikers, and Cove says the other two parties listened to their concerns.
I think we got lots of exposure, she says. Its important to have our voices heard, and we said our peace. It felt good to be there.
This is the womens second road trip in less than a week. On Monday, they made the three-hour drive from Amherst to Halifax for the Labour Day parade, and collected hundreds of signatures on a petition that calls for better transition house funding.
Since todays information picket started at 8:30 in the morning, six of the strikers made the trip last night, and slept on the floor at Coves sisters house. The rest left Amherst at 5:30, to make it in time for the demonstration.
Were feeling really strong that were speaking up for our rights, says Cove.
The board of directors at Autumn House refuses to give the workers a wage increase that has already been promised by the government. As well, the board wants the women to work 12-hour shifts, while reducing their coverage for long-term disability payments and eliminating their maternity benefits. Currently, the workers have no pension plan, and they dont have the customary time-and-a-half provisions for working overtime and statutory holidays.
The board of directors says it cant afford to give the women the contract they want because the government only provides 75% of transition house funds, and the board hasnt fundraised enough to make the difference. Last year, the Autumn House board raised less than half what it did ten years ago.