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Unionized ARCH employees hold picket outside hospice

Unifor Local 1359 says healthcare workers at Fourth Line end of life facility have not benefitted since Ontario’s Bill 124 was struck down

Healthcare workers employed by Algoma Residential Community Hospice are hoping for better pay but the union representing them is frustrated with ARCH.

“We spent two days at the table in the beginning of September and we didn’t get anywhere with bargaining so we have now filed for conciliation,” said Cathy Humalamaki, Unifor Local 1359 president, speaking to SooToday at an information picket held outside the Fourth Line hospice Monday afternoon.

Unifor Local 1359 represents a mix of 35 full-time and part-time employees at ARCH, including RNs, RPN's, PSWs and chefs.

While money from ARCH fundraisers goes towards residents’ care, food and supplies, building maintenance and bills, pay for the hospice’s healthcare workers comes from the province to ARCH.

Unifor Local 1359 says ARCH healthcare workers have not been rewarded with higher pay like those at other healthcare facilities since the province’s Bill 124 - which capped wage increases for nurses and other public sector workers at one per cent a year for three years - was ruled as unconstitutional.

“We want them to be respected and get a fair wage. One per cent is not fair,” Humalamaki said.

“That's what they were under with Bill 124, but Bill 124 is gone so we need them to come back with an offer that’s fair and comparable to other healthcare workers.”

“We got over nine per cent over three years for workers at the Ontario Finnish Resthome. The hospital got 4.75 per cent so the arbitrators are ruling in favour of the frontline healthcare workers, but they have a retention problem here,” Humalamaki said of ARCH. 

The union says some ARCH employees have left and gotten other jobs.

Humalamaki said that Monday’s picket was for information purposes and that ARCH has agreed to two more days of discussions with Unifor-represented employees in mid-October.

“We have to be able to retain employees here,” Humalamaki said.

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Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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