Health and safety a key issue as strike looms at Community Living Sarnia-Lambton

    SARNIA, ON, June 26 /CNW Telbec/ - More than 300 persons with a
developmental disability could be without service beginning just after
midnight tomorrow, June 27, if management at Community Living Sarnia-Lambton
does not reach a collective agreement with its front line staff.
    At meetings today, the members of CUPE 4370 reaffirmed their support for
their bargaining team's efforts to win new health and safety provisions as
well as ongoing improvements to wages as new funding flows from the province
to the agency.
    Mediation between the union, representing about 138 developmental
services workers, and the employer broke off last night without a settlement.
    "We do not want to strike," said Brian Biggers, CUPE 4370 president, "but
we cannot continue to work in an environment where the employer does not take
the necessary steps to ensure the health and safety of workers, the
individuals we support, volunteers and visitors."
    Health and safety, and specifically violence in the workplace, is a
growing concern in both health and social services in Ontario, he said, noting
that increased workloads, staff turnover, staff shortages and the stress that
workers experience also affect the people they support and their families.
    "Sometimes we feel their anger and frustration in ways that hurt," he
said. In the last week, the Ministry of Labour has issued orders to Community
Living Sarnia-Lambton after a worker was injured in an assault by a client.
    "The police were involved, an incident report was filed and she sought
medical attention," Biggers said. "When she reported to work the following
evening, the situation had not changed and she did a work refusal. Shockingly,
the staffer called in to replace her was not informed about the nature of the
work refusal."
    Biggers said the union is ready to go back to mediation if the employer
is prepared for serious discussions about how to use the collective agreement
to act on their joint responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy workplace.

For further information:

For further information: Brian Biggers, President, CUPE 4370, (519)
333-7109; Doreen Beath, CUPE National Representative, (519) 433-1753; Pat
Daley, CUPE Communications, (416) 616-6142

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