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THUNDER BAY Negotiators for Local 3253 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), representing 36 social service and mental health workers at North of Superior Programs, have asked a provincial conciliator to help them achieve a fair collective agreement in conciliated negotiations scheduled for April 15th and 16th.

We will be doing our best to achieve a fair collective agreement to avoid a strike that would hurt some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, says CUPE National Representative Dan Pike. Our last contract with this employer expired in March, 2002 and we are still nowhere near a settlement thats fair.

The workers offer mental health, addiction counselling and integrated services for children in communities all along the north shore of Lake Superior, from Nipigon to Manitouwage, including Geraldton, Longlac and Nakina.

The Ministry of Community and Social services has already clawed back 77,000 dollars in funding for the programs, and positions have been lost through attrition and layoff. North of Superior receives funding from Social Services and Health and is governed by a Board of directors made up of local community representatives.

Workers cannot keep picking up the slack for people who have not been replaced, says Diane Atkinson, CUPE 3253 spokesperson. Were going to the bargaining table to protect the services we provide our communities deserve better.

Since 1991, workers at North of Superior programs have lost ground to inflation and seen a reduction in the purchasing power of their take-home pay. Managements current offer would put workers further behind.

Thats not good enough for our members or for the communities we service, says Pike. Its about fairness and its about respect, something our members and the communities deserve.

If conciliation talks fail to achieve a contract settlement, Local 3253 will be looking at strike preparations, and a work stoppage is a real possibility.

The last thing we want is a strike, but we also have families to take care of, says Atkinson. We care deeply about the people in our community who need our help, and we hope our employer will offer a fair deal so we can continue to offer the quality of services they deserve.

For further information, please contact:
Dan Pike
CUPE National Rep.

Diane Atkinson
CUPE 3253 spokesperson

Robert Lamoureux
CUPE Communications Rep.

OPEIU 491/gpb