Over the lunch hour on Tuesday, hundreds of people rallied outside government offices in support of members of CUPE 2073, the striking workers at the Canadian Hearing Society (CHS). The 227 workers, who provide vital services to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, have been on a province-wide strike since March 6.
“We know that negotiations require compromise and effort,” said Stacey Connor, president of Local 2073. “We’ve worked hard to meet CHS on their major demands – but they choose to put their energy into prolonging this strike, rather than finding a way to work with us to end it. It is incredibly frustrating for our members, who love their work and want to get back to providing vital services to the community. We wonder if CHS sees the long-term damage that is happening here. If they can’t, we hope the provincial government, as their major funder, will provide a wake-up call.”
“The Ministries of Health and Community and Social Services are the major funders of this agency,” said Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario. “It’s high time they took a closer look at what’s going on with CHS. As reported by the CBC, this is an agency where some executives have seen their salaries rise by 75 per cent while frontline staff have been flatlined for four years – four years. And these dramatic increases in executive salary have occurred over the same period that some regional offices have been closed.”
Hahn called on the ministries to conduct a review of spending at CHS. “In the 2016 fiscal year alone, as reported to the Canada Revenue Agency, CHS spent $840,000 on consultants. The government’s ‘hands off’ approach is not confidence-inspiring. We’re asking the province to review how much of the funding they provide is actually goes to frontline service delivery.”
President of the Ontario Association for the Deaf, George Postlethwait Jr, also spoke at the rally. “The Deaf and Hard of Hearing community is suffering without the vital services these workers provide,” he said. “The CHS claims to be functioning normally during the strike – we know that’s not true. Members of the community are unable to access the services they need. The government just has to ask us, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing consumers of these services. This is far from business as usual, and we urge the provincial government to take a closer look at how CHS is spending its funding.”
Local 2073 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) represents 227 workers at CHS offices in Ontario. Members of CUPE 2073 work at CHS as counsellors, literacy instructors, audiologists, speech language pathologists, interpreters/interpreter trainers, clerical support, program coordinators, program assistants, and information technology specialists. 90 per cent of those on strike are women, and 40 per cent of the workforce is Deaf.