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TORONTO - Picket lines went up this morning at Madison Avenue Housing and Support Services after talks failed to reach a settlement over the weekend. Madison housing offers housing and support services to mental health clients in Toronto.

Weve been at the bargaining table for over a year since our contract expired March 31st, 1999, says Joanne Martin, National Representative of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents 14 workers at Madison. This weekend we narrowed it down to one contentious clause involving hours of work. When we couldnt agree, this employer reverted to a previous position from June 5th, with a long list of concessions.

The last thing we wanted was a strike, says Martin. Our members care deeply about the well-being of residents and clients, and it is precisely out of concern for our clients that we needed to take a stand.

Substandard working conditions and an unstable working environment are the last thing these people need, adds Martin. These workers pour their heart and soul into the work they do and they deserve to be treated fairly.

Concessions demanded by the employer include eliminating job security, gutting standard hours of work and benefits, and severely restricting the ability of Union officers to represent the workers. Front-line workers at Madison received a 1% increase in their first contract in 1998, while the new Executive Director earns 10.4% more than her predecessor. The 2000-2001 budget contains a 4.9% increase for management and zero for front-line workers.

Madisons Executive Director Nancy Roxborough is no friend of Labour, adds Martin. She presided over a nasty five-week strike in 1994 as Director of Colborne Community Services. Problems under her directorship lead to a damning operational review by the Ontario Ministry of Health. Now shes hired notoriously anti-union lawyer Robert Budd, infamous for dragging the Toronto Boys Home through a 13-week strike earlier this year.

Despite this employers intimidation tactics and bad faith bargaining, our members are determined to stand up for their rights and the future of the important services they provide, says Martin. We care too much about the well-being of our clients to back down now.

For further information, please contact:

Joanne Martin, CUPE National Rep.

(416) 292-3999, (416) 571-1256

Rick Alexander, President, Local 3798

(416) 833-2595 (cell)

Robert Lamoureux, CUPE Communications

(416) 292-3999

gpb/OPEIU 491