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Ottawa, Ont. – Frustrated by management’s refusal to deal with a long list of contract issues in negotiations, Local 1521.01 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), representing 100 community outreach and case management workers at the Ottawa branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), has asked a provincial conciliation officer to join talks with management on September 11, to try and mediate a negotiated settlement, and avert a strike or lockout at the non-profit agency.


“Our employer, and their legal counsel, have thwarted negotiations since contract talks began this spring, and we have been forced to begin strike preparations,” said Paddy York, CUPE 1521.01 spokesperson. “We would prefer to avoid a strike, and that’s why we intend to do our best to reach a settlement in upcoming conciliation talks, but we will need to see some movement on management’s side.”


Several outstanding issues remain, including workload, seniority rights in promotions and layoffs, staff training and wages. “Management negotiators cancelled two bargaining dates we had set prior to conciliation, and it doesn’t look like they want to move forward with this. I don’t think they understand the full impact a strike or lockout would have on our community,” said CUPE national representative Jean-Marc Bézaire. If negotiations fail to produce a settlement, this would be the first strike by staff at the Ottawa branch of the CMHA.


“We work with members of our community who are among the most vulnerable people in Ottawa, dealing with severe and persistent mental illness, substance abuse disorders, conflicts with the law and developmental disabilities, and who are homeless or threatened with homelessness,” said York. “We help our clients navigate the health care, social services and justice systems.”


“Without our members supporting these individuals, Ottawa police, health care workers and social workers would have difficulty dealing with a sharp increase in cases and new demands on their time and resources,” said Bézaire. “That’s why CMHA management needs to recognize the importance of reaching a negotiated settlement.” CUPE is reaching out to members of the CMHA board of directors and management, urging them to take a fair and positive approach to negotiations in order to prevent a strike.


“We also encourage our clients’ families and friends, and the Ottawa community, to contact the CMHA board of directors and Executive Director Marion Wright,” said York. “It’s important to make them understand the need for a fair deal to prevent a strike or lockout that would have a devastating impact on our clients’ quality of life.”




For further information, please contact:


Jean-Marc Bézaire                                         Robert Lamoureux

CUPE National Representative                      CUPE Communications

613-237-0115                                                  416-292-3999

613-293-8163  (cell)