Christmas Eve pact to put newcomers first as cuts hit Hamilton

HAMILTON, ON, Dec. 24 /CNW/ - Community leaders in Hamilton are pulling together this holiday season in a desperate bid to protect services for new immigrants amid deep cuts in federal funding.

Hamilton's largest immigrant settlement agency today announced it had reached a pact with staff to put services for clients first as it copes with a dramatic drop in funding.

Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney confirmed on Thursday he is cutting $43-million in funding for immigrant settlement agencies in Ontario, in a move that is hitting Hamilton hard and contributing to mass layoffs.

The agreement announced today between the Settlement Immigration Services Organization (SISO) and the Service Employees International Union Local 1 Canada (SEIU) addresses impending layoffs at the agency. 

The pact will support continuity of service for clients and allow the agency's new management team and staff to make a fresh start and focus on meeting the needs of newcomers to Hamilton despite the cuts.

Fariha Ali, a settlement worker hit by the layoffs, said: "I am satisfied the agreement will ensure layoffs and recalls are managed in a way that is as fair and equitable as possible so that staff have a say and clients come first."

Sandra Mlekuz, interim executive director of SISO, said in an email to staff: "Many outstanding issues have been resolved and we look forward to working together with the union." 

Sharleen Stewart, head of SEIU, said: "Newcomers are vital to the future economic success of Hamilton. Wiping out immigrant settlement services will hurt the economy and is causing devastation this holiday season."

"I have heard from community leaders and we will be pulling together to try to overcome recent adversity and put settlement services back on track in Hamilton," she added.

SEIU Local 1 Canada represents more than 50,000 healthcare and community services workers across Ontario

SOURCE SEIU Healthcare

For further information: For further information:

Greg Dwulit, 905-660-1800 x 3059, or 647 237 7348 or

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