CUPE is urgently calling on the federal government to restore funding to Welcome Place, and to stop layoffs that would leave refugee settlement services decimated in downtown Winnipeg.
More staff layoffs at Welcome Place are expected to occur on September 19 and October 1.
“The federal government has cut 82 per cent of total funding to Welcome Place, resulting in massive staff layoffs and reduced ability to serve Winnipeg’s refugee community,” says Vivienne Ho, President of CUPE 2348, which represents staff at Welcome Place. “The federal government claims that it wants to support refugees in Canada, but then leaves entire communities and programs underfunded and underserved with a stroke of the pen.”
Welcome Place, also known as the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council (MIIC), has served downtown Winnipeg for over 40 years, helping thousands of newcomers and refugees settle and succeed in Manitoba.
“How can this government claim to support refugees when they are gutting a well-respected and established refugee serving organization? With new refugees arriving from Afghanistan in addition to other countries, we need to make sure people are cared for,” said Ho.
In April 2021, Welcome Place locked out its own workers, demanding significant concessions on top of the wage cuts and layoffs staff had already accepted. An arbitrator is set to rule on staff’s contract negotiations after Labour Board hearings on September 16 and 17, 2021.
In the meantime, Welcome Place has served layoff notices to seven more staff for September 19, 2021, resulting in a nearly 88 per cent reduction of staff since 2019. Still, more layoffs are expected on October 1.
The remaining staff continues to help refugees with health care, legal, employment, financial, housing, and social supports throughout the pandemic, despite being severely short-staffed.
“Staff at Welcome Place have done their jobs serving refugees in Winnipeg, and are in fact mostly refugees themselves,” said Ho. “Staff have seen wage cuts and layoffs, yet the federal government continues to turn its back on these workers and the communities they serve. We need the federal government to stop the layoffs and restore funding to Welcome Place.”
CUPE 2348 is currently before the Manitoba Labour Board in an effort to hold back further concessions.