CUPE: 'We’re asking for fairness' (6 photos)Thursday, October 04, 2012 by: Darren Taylor
A spirited rally was held early this afternoon by Algoma Public Health (APH) employees, represented by CUPE Local 1528, outside the APH office on Willow Avenue.
Over 70 unionized APH employees have been without a new contract since March 31, 2011.
CUPE Local 1528 Vice-President Pat Wurster, in Sault Ste. Marie for the biannual Northern Ontario CUPE Conference, joined the protesting APH employees represented by CUPE at the rally.
Two buses carrying unionized staff and their supporters arrived at the APH office main entrance, on their way from the conference being held at Delta Sault Ste. Marie Waterfront.
Wurster, chair of the negotiating committee for Local 1528, told SooToday.coom: “We are trying to negotiate a fair contract, and management at APH is saying provincial legislation doesn’t allow us to have any increases in pay and benefits, but they have had increases in the past two years. We just want parity with other groups."
"We just want benefits and want parity with other public sector workers, and those other groups are getting raises,” she continued.
Types of workers affected at Algoma Public Health include clerical employees, public health inspectors, water inspectors, family support workers who assist mothers when they come home with new babies, clerical workers, tobacco law enforcement personnel, environmental officers and others who provide a wide range of services across the Sault and Algoma region.
The rally had some effect, as APH management agreed to meet with CUPE officials at the APH office directly after the rally.
Robin Silverman, who works out of the Sault Ste. Marie CUPE office, told us: “We want top up pay for maternity and paternity leave, we want some wage disparity addressed.”
Silverman added: “This group has tried for a long time for equality, they’re just as important as any other group of employees, union or non-union. We’re not looking for huge increases, in fact we’re pretty open in that respect, but management has to treat us fairly, and today we’ve actually been invited to speak with management.”
“Since March 2011, the extent of discussions has been sitting with the employer, drinking coffee, nodding their heads and saying ‘no.’ That’s been the extent of negotiations,” Silverman stated. “We understand the reality of wage restraints, management’s operating budget is what it is, but of course we’re not going to take zero increases for the next four years.”
“Look at the age of these workers rallying today. They have children, they’re raising families. The cost of living is going to go up, and they can’t stretch their dollars. The north is not the cheapest place to live, people think it is,” Silverman continued. “Housing is cheaper than it is in Toronto, but food is not, gasoline is not. Postsecondary education for their children is expensive, clothing is expensive, health care is expensive. We’re asking for fairness.”
“Maternity and paternity leave top up pay is given to other groups of workers…we have a large group of female workers in this unit who don’t get any top up on maternity leave.”
APH management officials were not immediately available for comment.