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HAMILTON Staff at Wentworth Lodge, members of CUPE 5167, were all smiles on June 25 after Hamilton city council agreed to keep the home for the aged in public hands and move forward with much-needed renovations.

The 200 workers, with help from the CUPE National Defence Fund, joined forces with the Wentworth Lodge Residents Council and the Hamilton & District Labour Council in a campaign to save the facility from being handed over to private operators or closed completely. It is one of two municipally-owned homes.

This is a huge victory for and by our members, said CUPE 5167 Gus Oliveira. In four weeks, they collected more than 8,500 signatures on a petition to keep Wentworth Lodge public. City council saw clearly that keeping the two homes operated by the city in public hands really matters to residents of Hamilton.

Jean Tavares, Unit Chair at the Lodge and one of the campaign co-ordinators, said knowing they had the support of the whole union got members involved.

Weve been hearing off and on for the last 12 years that the lodge might close, she said. Members felt like it was a done deal. But after Gus came out and told us it was up to us to fight for our jobs and the people we care for, with backing from the local, I couldnt keep up with the demand from members for petitions and flyers.

Throughout the campaign, members were confronted with a smear campaign attacking them for having wages that are too high. At the end of the day, both the public and city council recognized that decent wages and benefits have resulted in high staff morale, low staff turnover and a publicly-owned and operated facility where quality is second to none.