Strike risk at Canadian Mental Health Association - CUPE enters conciliation talks

    OTTAWA, Sept. 7 /CNW Telbec/ - Frustrated by management's refusal to deal
with a long list of contract issues in negotiations, Local 1521.01 of the
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), representing 100 community outreach
and case management workers at the Ottawa branch of the Canadian Mental Health
Association (CMHA), has asked a provincial conciliation officer to join talks
with management on September 11, to try and mediate a negotiated settlement,
and avert a strike or lockout at the non-profit agency.
    "Our employer, and their legal counsel, have thwarted negotiations since
contract talks began this spring, and we have been forced to begin strike
preparations," said Paddy York, CUPE 1521.01 spokesperson. "We would prefer to
avoid a strike, and that's why we intend to do our best to reach a settlement
in upcoming conciliation talks, but we will need to see some movement on
management's side."
    Several outstanding issues remain, including workload, seniority rights
in promotions and layoffs, staff training and wages. "Management negotiators
cancelled two bargaining dates we had set prior to conciliation, and it
doesn't look like they want to move forward with this. I don't think they
understand the full impact a strike or lockout would have on our community,"
said CUPE national representative Jean-Marc Bézaire. If negotiations fail to
produce a settlement, this would be the first strike by staff at the Ottawa
branch of the CMHA.
    "We work with members of our community who are among the most vulnerable
people in Ottawa, dealing with severe and persistent mental illness, substance
abuse disorders, conflicts with the law and developmental disabilities, and
who are homeless or threatened with homelessness," said York. "We help our
clients navigate the health care, social services and justice systems."
    "Without our members supporting these individuals, Ottawa police, health
care workers and social workers would have difficulty dealing with a sharp
increase in cases and new demands on their time and resources," said Bézaire.
"That's why CMHA management needs to recognize the importance of reaching a
negotiated settlement." CUPE is reaching out to members of the CMHA board of
directors and management, urging them to take a fair and positive approach to
negotiations in order to prevent a strike.
    "We also encourage our clients' families and friends, and the Ottawa
community, to contact the CMHA board of directors and Executive Director
Marion Wright," said York. "It's important to make them understand the need
for a fair deal to prevent a strike or lockout that would have a devastating
impact on our clients' quality of life."

For further information:

For further information: Jean-Marc Bézaire, CUPE National
Representative, (613) 237-0115, (613) 293-8163 (cell); Robert Lamoureux, CUPE
Communications, (416) 292-3999

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