Ontario employees with the Canadian Hearing Society are on the picket line today.
The CHS provides services and products to those who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing. And as Greg Davis reports, the strike is already being felt by clients at the Peterborough branch.
For three decades Barb Downey has been a client at the Canadian Hearing Society. Through an interpreter, she says the services are vital
Downey: Primarily interpretative services, as well as technical devices such as flashing lights and alarm systems, they do provide counselling services that are very worthwhile.
Downey said she was sad to see CHS staff at the Reid Street office on strike, forcing her own employer to scramble for their clients.
Downey: Sadly we don’t have any interpreter which means my clients who have been waiting for these specialists appointments will have to have these postponed so it’s a huge impact to us.
On Sunday negotiations broke off between the CHS and the Canadian Union of Public Employees representing nearly 230 Ontario workers at two dozen offices. Dividing them are wages and roll backs to health benefits and sick days.
Allison Davidson, CUPE National Rep: “I have bargained for CUPE for 21 years – I have never been to a table where any employer has absolutely no interest in putting anything on the table that we can worth with to actually find a settlement.
It’s the first job action in 40 years for Local 2073 which has been without a contract for four years.
The union says it rejected wage freezes and reductions moved to a pension plan.
Davidson: “And that’s how they thought they could get a settling by essentially shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic”
CHS vice-president Gary Malkowski stated he was disappointed with the strike action in light of their proposal which included retroactive wage increases along with maintaining group benefits and modernizing paid sick days.
Malkowski: “In light of CUPE’s decision to strike, our focus right now is to provide our clients with the best possible care and service under these disappointing circumstances.”
The eight employees at the Peterborough branch serve five counties and up to 1,000 clients.
Anna McIntosh, hearing care counsellor: The passion we have for our clients is unmatched for most agencies I’ve had experience with. We want nothing more than to get to work to continue to providing the services we provide to the community and our clients and we hope people will support us.”
Downey: There are other options for us to get interpreters but they are a lot more expensive.
Greg Davis CHEX News Peterborough