Lennox and Addington Interval House (LAIH) shelter workers went on strike on Friday, October 29, 2021, in response to what they call an “insulting offer” made after more than a year of negotiations with their employer .
The workers are represented by Unifor, the largest private sector union in Canada, which represents 315,000 workers in all major sectors of the economy. The current collective agreement has expired for over a year and covers approximately 20 LAIH workers. The unit voted 100 percent in favor of the strike. Workers seek the same or similar processes and benefits as sister agencies in neighboring communities, aimed at resolving issues of representation, disciplinary action, and vacancies.
On Wednesday, November 3, 2021, Unifor representatives Katha Fortier, Assistant to the National President, and Gord Currie, President of Unifor Local 414, will join their fellow strikers on the picket line for the fifth day. of their strike.
“LAIH’s Unifor members do life-saving work in their communities, and the least they deserve is respect and a fair collective agreement,” said Currie. “Members handed out leaflets this summer and community members responded to their pleas for help then, and we will need that support again. “
“The decision to strike is never taken lightly, but the members of Lennox and Addington Interval House are firmly united in this decision. They know the shelter workers and clients deserve better than management has offered at the table, ”said Jerry Dias, National President of Unifor. “Members have told their employer enough is enough – the years of short-staffed work must come to an end, both for their well-being and for the clients of the homes.”
Picket lines are set up at the Interval House outreach office at 37 Dundas Street in Napanee, where management operates. Two of the workers on the picket line, Brooke McIlvaney and Brooke Phillips-Janisse, explained the situation as they see it.
“We’ve been trying to negotiate a new contract for over a year and when negotiations were stalled over issues related to the language of the contract, we proceeded to a strike vote,” said McIllvaney. “Even after the deadline, we agreed to an additional 10 days to return to the bargaining table in the hope that there would never be a strike, but unfortunately the employer used those 10 days, not to prepare for a fair negotiation or a reasonable offer, but to prepare to force us to leave knowing that they weren’t coming close to what we are asking for.
Workers are looking for a contract language equal to that of their sister agencies, Three Oaks Shelter in Belleville and Kingston Interval House.
Mike Armstrong, a consultant who works on Bargaining and Bargaining for Local 414, said, “It’s not about the money. It’s all about language in the collective agreement.
He stressed that sister agencies are allowed to be represented by unions at disciplinary meetings, while “LAIH workers do not have this right. I mean, this was all sorted out in the ’60s and’ 70s. Even as long as the committee properly investigates someone’s discipline, they have to do that research in their spare time at night.
One of the biggest problems, Armstrong pointed out, is posting fair and appropriate job postings. “Currently, the employer does not post job offers. He says it’s their opinion if they post jobs, well, it’s just archaic, ”he said.
Indeed, Phillips-Janice reports that when positions are vacant, either because of a leave of absence or because someone has left the agency completely, the vacant positions are often not filled. Rather than filling vacancies, Workers describe managers in unionized jobs and casual staff overworked with full-time hours “without the protections or benefits or even the rate of pay for full-time staff.”
“The work we do is emotionally taxing and these benefits are there to protect our well-being so that we can continue to serve our community to the best of our ability, rather than a place of burnout,” said Phillips-Janisse . “The monetary issues were minor and barely discussed as the things that would really make a difference in the work environment could not be agreed upon. “
“We care about the residents and members of the community we serve,” said McIlvaney, “and we hope the employer will really consider what we ask for and get back to the table as soon as possible. We know that even though the phone is answered and the doors are open, the level of service that some of the most vulnerable women in our community are receiving is sorely lacking.
The two women said that over the weekend, management failed to call customers of outreach services across the county to report what was going on, forcing vulnerable people to drive for more than an hour at times. , to arrive at the shelter and have their appointment canceled. .
“We have 16-18 staff who are not at work, their outreach workload alone includes 20-25 clients who are not in the shelter,” Armstrong said. “So now they are trying to run the shelter with the executive director and two managers and we already know that the services are not provided to the people in the shelter because the residents come and talk to our members saying ‘This is not happening. This is not happening. We’ve just brought one out now, so there’s a lady in the shelter that’s blind and she can’t even come down, she can’t do nothing because there’s no one to help her.
Armstrong continued, “The most amazing thing is that when we took action on Friday afternoon, the employer put a male security guard inside the shelter – that’s basically wrong. Abused women leave a relationship because they are abused by a man, so you bring a male security guard into it? It’s just mind-boggling.
In this regard, McIlvaney indicated that, while he was at the shelter on the afternoon of Tuesday, November 2, 2021, “a client came out and said he had not slept since the start of the strike in cause of a male security guard. in the building. She said last night was the first night they slept because there wasn’t any there.
On behalf of Interval House, Executive Director Sue Weir released a statement to local media, which reads: “This is a public information message from Lennox Addington Interval House as of Friday October 29 at 2pm, we will experience disruption work. We are disappointed that conciliation did not result in an agreement with our local bargaining unit. Our services remain open and we are committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of our customers. We will keep the community informed on our website and social media. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this difficult time. “
Armstrong called this statement “Just amazing.”
“She says ‘business as usual’. It’s not business as usual; of shelter residents have come out in the past two days and told us they are not getting the services that [Interval House] used to provide, they were afraid of the male security guard in there. We had people approaching for an appointment with one of the counselors who were never informed that their appointment had been canceled, ”he said. “It’s not as usual.”
In fact, the “public statement,” which appeared this weekend on other local media outlets, does not appear on LAIH’s web page, Facebook, or Twitter. LAIH had not responded to the request for comment at the time of publication.