TORONTO – Workers at two shelters for homeless men in Toronto will walk off the job at 12:01 a.m., Friday, April 23rd, unless an agreement can be reached with Salvation Army negotiators.
The 80 workers, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3798-05, help more than 500 homeless men who stay at the Maxwell Meighen Centre and the Riverdale Centre in the citys downtown. They include frontline workers who do intake and supervise the premises, case managers, housing councillors, primary support workers, housekeepers and cleaners, maintenance workers, and clothing room and dining room attendants.
We work in high stress workplaces with poor working conditions, but we get inferior wages and benefits, says Ian Shaver, one of the workers and a member of the bargaining committee. Workers at other shelters of a similar size earn higher wages than we do.
The workers earn an average of $14.00 per hour. The employer is offering a 2 per cent increase in each of three years, or 1.5, 1.5 and 2 per cent over three years in return for reestablishing an RRSP plan that was eliminated in the last round of bargaining. The union is seeking wage increases of 4 per cent in each of three years and the reinstatement of the RRSPs. Many of us have worked here for years, says Shaver. We have no pension plan and the employer got rid of our modest RRSP plan in the last round of negotiations. We are asking to be treated fairly.
The work we do is critical and we are still hoping to avoid a strike, says Shaver. We give support and counselling to people who are in crisis situations. Over half of the clients suffer from mental illness. Some have just been released from jail. Unfortunately these shelters will be shut down on Friday, if we are unable to negotiate a decent contract.
Last minute talks are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.
The shelters are run by the Salvation Army and funded by the provincial government and the City of Toronto.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees represents 180,000 workers in Ontario, many of whom work for social service agencies.
For further information, please contact:
(416) 292-3999 ext. 222