Despite attempts to intimidate them into accepting a deal that would degrade services at Ottawa’s only francophone women’s shelter, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) at Maison d’amitié are determined to defend the vital services they provide to women and children who are fleeing violence.

Despite two days of negotiations with a provincial mediator, Maison d’amitié continued to demand deep cuts to the wages, benefits and conditions of its female workforce, as well as the elimination of benefits for part-time staff, who make up approximately about two-thirds of the 36 workers at Maison d’amitié.

Negotiators for the agency persisted in their demands for massive clawbacks, despite the fact that government funding for Maison d’amitié is stable and the agency is not in any financial crisis.

Maison d’amitié also refused to withdraw its deadline of November 20 for a strike or lockout.

In spite of the pressure, CUPE members maintained that Maison d’amitié’s approach not only hurts workers, but harms services for vulnerable women and families.

“CUPE members want to provide consistent, reliable and excellent services to the women who rely on them. And these kinds of high-quality services can only be provided by caring and experienced workers who are secure in their jobs,” said CUPE representative Jacynthe Barbeau.

“By contrast, Maison d’amitié’s demands will only create more precarious, poorly paid jobs, which will in turn lead to a revolving door of workers. This won’t give women who are fleeing violence the continuity of care and effective counselling they need; only a secure and stable group of workers can provide that kind of support and assistance.”

Barbeau praised the workers for their willingness to fight for what is best for Maison d’amitié clients, as well as for themselves.

“Maison d’amitié has manufactured this crisis to try to force workers to accept a terrible deal – one that will hurt them and the women and children who use the agency’s services,” said CUPE representative Jacynthe Barbeau.

“How else to interpret Maison d’amitié’s position? It is nothing more than intimidation of women workers for daring to speak with one voice as members of a union.”

Out of consideration and concern for the women and children who take refuge at the two shelters operated by Maison d’amitié, CUPE members will hold their picket line at the offices of the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the agency’s main funder, at 347 Preston Street in Ottawa.