Some 20 workers at Albion Neighbourhood Services (ANS), members of Teamsters Local 938, have been on strike since February 6. ANS is a non-profit agency that works with homeless and marginalized persons. The workers are on strike for a number of issues, most particularly because the agency has not given them a raise in years, and has arbitrarily cut existing benefits without notice including their maternity leave and sick bank.
The employer continues to bargain in bad faith, calling the union into bargaining only to table the same offer as previously made. One of the most objectionable clauses they have tabled is one that ties workers’ wages to the funding the agency receives from various levels of government and agencies like the United Way. The Union cannot agree to this, as it would automatically leave workers in a precarious position, without the ability to plan for their future, with rising and falling salaries.
Also, Executive Directors (EDs) are notorious throughout the non-profit community services sector for not challenging the decisions of government ministries when they flat-line or reduce funding. In some cases, that leaves workers having to accept lower wages and benefits, or be laid off while funding for the service goes to a lower paying, often private, non-union company. At ANS, the ED flatly refuses to speak to the Union about funding related issues, leaving workers at a further disadvantage.
Another important issue is centred around dignity and union recognition. Management is seeking to introduce a “harassment” clause that would allow them to act unilaterally in disciplining or firing workers, without any union input in the process. This is the same management that on the first day of the strike, used scabs to charge two Union members of Colour (no coincidence) with forcible confinement in a washroom.
This incident on the first day of the strike is emblematic of the oppressive and racist atmosphere at the agency. Workers feel they have no control over their work environment, that the ED has no respect for the skilled and crucially important work that they do.
It will be going on a month that these courageous workers have been on strike against a very aggressive employer. We need to support them. The picket line is at 21 Panorama Court, at Kipling, just north of Finch. The picket line is up Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm. Please come out and support them!