Strike looms at Huron Perth Children's Aid Society over working conditions

    LONDON, Oct. 12 /CNW Telbec/ - Huron Perth Children's Aid Society
workers, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), are
preparing for a strike over deteriorating working conditions, after
conciliation talks with their employer broke down on October 4. The union
requested a 'no-board' report from the provincial conciliator, triggering a
countdown to a legal strike or lockout that could start at the end the month.
    "This employer is not interested in resolving critical issues such as
workload, low wages and staff retention that affect working conditions at the
agency," said Laurel LeBeau, president of CUPE 1427. "Conciliation talks led
to nowhere because the employer presented a take it or leave it package that
did not address any of our members' concerns - it was as if management did not
hear any of our issues during months of bargaining."
    Union representatives have been bargaining with the employer since April.
The 90 child protection and administrative support workers are seeking to
improve working conditions, including:

    - Hiring of additional staff to help relieve on-call duties for existing
      staff. Current on-call responsibilities for staff include being
      available for phone and house in-take duties after working their
      regular day shifts - this leads to staff working and being available
      for emergency 24 hours a day, while they are still expected to work the
      following day.
    - Addressing low wages for the administrative staff. Support workers at
      the agency earn 10 per cent less than their counterparts in other CAS
      agencies from surrounding communities.
    - The elimination of wage gap between front line employees. Currently
      children's service workers earn 10 per cent less than family service
      in-take staff, even though both groups of workers are there to serve
      children and families seeking help from the agency.

    "On top of it all, management is trying to deny paid vacation for workers
returning from maternity leave," said LeBeau. "This is an issue that we
already won at arbitration, and the employer is determined to renew its attack
on working women - it's despicable. It's also ironic that this attack is
coming from an agency that is suppose to serve the interests of children and
    "The agency already has trouble retaining staff because of low wages,
poor morale and unhealthy working conditions - yet they continue to ignore the
critical issues that have put us in this dismal situation," said LeBeau.  "We
are prepared to come back to the mediation table to prevent a strike that will
hurt our clients, community and agency, but so far management has refused to
come back to negotiate before the strike deadline."

For further information:

For further information: Laurel LeBeau, President CUPE 1427: (519)
891-0057; Jennifer Kaufmann, CUPE National Representative: (519) 433-1753;
James Chai, CUPE Communications: (416) 292-3999

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