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Striking group home workers in Ituna, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, gathered outside the Community Living Division of the Department of Community Resources and Employment in Moose Jaw on Tuesday, August 10.

The strikers want the Division to encourage their employer, Deer Park Villa, to return to the bargaining table and negotiate a resolution to the two-month-old strike.

The Ituna-based Deer Park Villa operates three group homes and an activity centre for adults with mental and physical challenges. The Community Living Division funds and oversees Deer Park Villas operations.

The group home workers walked off the job on June 3 after the employer refused to bargain language that would ensure the fair application of seniority in its hiring practices. CUPE has been trying to bargain a first collective agreement with Deer Park Villa for over a year.

The employer, through a lawyer from one of the biggest law firms in the province, has refused CUPEs repeated requests to return to the bargaining table, saying Deer Park Villa will only resume negotiations if the union first drops its proposal for the fair application of seniority rights.

Its unbelievable that the employer wont even talk to us about the outstanding issues, says union spokesperson Cyndi Salynuik. Apparently, theyd rather keep putting big bucks into a lawyers pocket than talk about fair treatment.

Community Living Division has stated that its primary concern is the well being of Deer Park Villas clients and that the situation in Ituna is being monitored.

Salynuik says that the striking workers decided to bring their dispute directly to the Divisions offices because the stated concerns about clients well being have not had any concrete results.

If the department is so concerned about clients well being, why havent they done the one thing that would guarantee that well being: get the employer back to the table to resolve this dispute? asks Salynuik.