Women working at the Leeds and Grenville Interval House have been forced out on strike in an effort to protect their benefits. The strike began on Tuesday, April 20 at 11 p.m.
The 20 women workers, represented by the United Steelworkers union (USW), are employed as counsellors and frontline staff, providing services to both temporary residents and external clients trying to escape domestic violence. Negotiations for a first collective agreement began on Oct. 27, 2020.
The staff have not received a wage increase in over 10 years and the shelter management is now attempting to claw back sick leave benefits and change the wage structure.
"This is a sector where burnout is very high because of the urgency and emotional intensity of the work," said Tracy Simpson, USW Staff Representative and lead negotiator. "Day in and day out, they help women and children through the horrors of domestic violence and assault. They advocate for everyone else – they must not have their rights trampled in return."
Simpson said that there has been a high demand for services during the pandemic. Members are very conscientious and concerned about clients, particularly those with upcoming court appointments where counsellors would normally accompany them. Staff were distressed to find they were locked out of their computers this morning and unable to notify clients of the need to cancel appointments.
"The staff are wondering, why would the shelter prefer to close its doors instead of negotiating a fair contract?" said Simpson.
Leeds and Grenville Interval House management has opted to relocate residents to an alternative location, instead of settling a fair collective agreement. Leeds and Granville Interval House is funded by the Ministry of Children and Social Services and other community sources such as donations and fundraising.
The staff members joined the United Steelworkers union in February 2020.
The USW represents 225,000 workers across Canada in nearly every economic industry, including a growing number of workers in the care sector. The union represents 850,000 workers in Canada, the United States and the Caribbean.
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