Good Shepherd Women's Shelter staff vote 97 % to strike for living wage

    HAMILTON, ON, June 9 /CNW Telbec/ - In an effort to improve their
substandard wages, Good Shepherd women's shelter staff recently voted 97 per
cent in favour of strike action, if a fair contract is not reached with their
employer, one that includes a compensation package that will allow the
40 women's services workers to live in dignity and not in poverty, warned the
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
    "It's ironic that a women's organization that helps women and children
who have experienced abuse and homelessness, is paying poverty-line wages to
their front-line staff," said Paula Masys-Pollock, CUPE 5167 unit chair. "All
we want is a fair wage that reflects our skills, workload and experience."
    Wage parity with other social service workers is the main outstanding
issue. Workers from other women's shelters in Hamilton and neighbouring
municipalities are paid significantly more than the Good Shepherd women's
shelter staff.
    The mission statement of the Good Shepherd Centres proclaims that the
organization 'strives to enhance the quality of life for all who seek
assistance and support.' "We are asking Good Shepherd to live up to its
mission statement and respect their own staff by offering us a fair contract
to end our ranking among the lowest paid shelter workers," continued
    "Low wages, high stress and demanding workloads have made it extremely
difficult to retain staff at our centres," said Masys-Pollock. "Our clients
need stability and continuity. High staff turnover not only hurts the clients,
but the remaining workers have increased workloads and added pressure to their
already long workday."
    The women workers, represented by CUPE, provide emergency shelter,
residential services, at Martha House, Mary's Place and transitional residency
at Somerville House, to women and children who've experienced abuse, mental
illness and homelessness. Good Shepherd outreach services also provide
counselling, legal support and housing for women and children. The staff have
been in contract talks since the beginning of the year, and have requested the
assistance of a provincial conciliator to help facilitate the discussion on
some of the major outstanding issues, including monetary items such as wages
and benefits. Conciliation talks are scheduled for June 12, 2008. Their last
contract expired on March 31, 2008.
    "Our members are dedicated to helping women and children on a daily
basis, and it's unfortunate the people we help will be the first to suffer if
we're forced to go on strike for a living wage," said Masys-Pollock. "Good
Shepherd needs to show respect for our members and the services we provide to
our clients by paying us decent wages and not the current wages that force us
to live near the poverty line."

For further information:

For further information: Paula Masys-Pollock, Unit Chair CUPE 5167,
(905) 522-0917; Andrew Hunter, CUPE National Rep.,  (905) 575-5411, (905)
531-7599; James Chai, CUPE Communications, (416) 292-3999

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