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Hamilton, Ont. – In an effort to improve their substandard wages, Good Shepherd women’s shelter staff recently voted 97 per cent in favour of strike action, if a fair contract is not reached with their employer, one that includes a compensation package that will allow the 40 women’s services workers to live in dignity and not in poverty, warned the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

“It’s ironic that a women’s organization that helps women and children who have experienced  abuse and homelessness, is paying poverty-line wages to their front-line staff,” said Paula Masys-Pollock, CUPE 5167 unit chair. “All we want is a fair wage that reflects our skills, workload and experience.”

Wage parity with other social service workers is the main outstanding issue. Workers from other women’s shelters in Hamilton and neighbouring municipalities are paid significantly more than the Good Shepherd women’s shelter staff.

The mission statement of the Good Shepherd Centres proclaims that the organization ‘strives to enhance the quality of life for all who seek assistance and support.’ “We are asking Good Shepherd to live up to its mission statement and respect their own staff by offering us a fair contract to end our ranking among the lowest paid shelter workers,” continued Masys-Pollock.

“Low wages, high stress and demanding workloads have made it extremely difficult to retain staff at our centres,” said Masys-Pollock. “Our clients need stability and continuity. High staff turnover not only hurts the clients, but the remaining workers have increased workloads and added pressure to their already long workday.”

The women workers, represented by CUPE, provide emergency shelter, residential services, at Martha House, Mary’s Place and transitional residency at Somerville House, to women and children who’ve experienced abuse, mental illness and homelessness. Good Shepherd outreach services also provide counselling, legal support and housing for women and children. The staff have been in contract talks since the beginning of the year, and have requested the assistance of a provincial conciliator to help facilitate the discussion on some of the major outstanding issues, including monetary items such as wages and benefits. Conciliation talks are scheduled for June 12, 2008. Their last contract expired on March 31, 2008.

“Our members are dedicated to helping women and children on a daily basis, and it’s unfortunate the people we help will be the first to suffer if we’re forced to go on strike for a living wage,” said Masys-Pollock. “Good Shepherd needs to show respect for our members and the services we provide to our clients by paying us decent wages and not the current wages that force us to live near the poverty line.”


For further information, please contact:

Paula Masys-Pollock         Andrew Hunter          James Chai
Unit Chair CUPE 5167       CUPE National Rep.    CUPE Communications
905-522-0917                 905-575-5411          416-292-3999