Locked Out Women's Shelter Workers Win New Contract
June 18, 2008
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The 49 women's shelter workers at the Women's Crisis Services of Waterloo Region, formerly known as Anselma House in Kitchener and Haven House in Cambridge, were locked out by their employer on May 23.
The workers already among the lowest paid in south western Ontario refused major concessions demanded by the employer. They took their fight to the streets and were joined by brothers and sisters from CAW Locals in the area, other unions, activists and national CAW leadership including Carol Phillips, assistant to CAW President Buzz Hargrove and Julie White Director of CAW Women's Programs.
Assistant to CAW President
"We are not going to allow employees of crisis services in Waterloo to be abused. We are not going to allow that. Shame on them for trying. We are with you all the way."
Dir. CAW Women's Programs
"They are standing up for their rights as workers and demanding a fair and equitable agreement from their employer and we are here to support them throughout the day and as long as it takes."
At the rally in front of Manulife where the Board's treasurer works, one of the locked out workers, Jennifer Schmidt summed up the workers' feelings.
Shelter worker CAW Local 302
"I know that you all know this but I am going to make this clear to all the people in Manulife and everyone walking around here today; that all we want and all we have ever wanted was to get back to work to a job that we love and to the women and children that need us so very desperately."
June 18, 2008
After two public demonstrations targeting the Board's refusal to negotiate and the ensuing media coverage CAW national representative Kim Power said the Board did come back to the table and a new contract was hammered out.
CAW National Rep.
"What forced them back to the table was that we got a lot of community support. There was a lot of pressure put on from Bob Chernecki, Buzz; certainly our contacts and a lot of the local unions that came out to support the demonstration and the public support."
After almost four weeks of being locked out by their employer the workers now have reason to celebrate. On June 18 they unanimously ratified a new three year contract with wage improvements each year, increased employer contribution to their RRSP plan, seniority protection and scheduling improvements.
The lock out is over but the damage it caused will linger according to the Jessica Almeida, Co-chair of CAW Local 302.
Co-chair CAW Local 302
"I think it is going to be a challenge going back tomorrow for everybody. It's bittersweet. We want to be back. We want to be supporting the women and children, but to have to work with the management that put us out there and left us out there, in this struggle, I don't even know what to say, it is going to be very hard."
Public support had a direct impact on the spirits of the locked out workers according to Christina Silva.
Women's Shelter worker CAW Local 302
"The community really stuck by us. We had people coming to us on the picket line, giving us food, encouraging us to stick together and fight for what you believe in. So that was the encouraging piece about it. The other encouraging piece was that we, the two shelters, Anselma House and Haven House and we came together very collectively. We got to talk. We got to spend hours sitting together and we wouldn't have normally done that."
CAW "Fighting Back Makes a Difference."