(WINDSOR, ON) – Having gone without a contract for four years, Ontario workers at the Canadian Hearing Society, including the branches in Windsor and Chatham, have hit the picket line and are into Day-9 of their strike. Despite the cold wind and latest winter weather, the spirits are high and comradery strong.
Today, the workers were visited on the line by Windsor-West MPP Lisa Gretzky, as well as strengthened by representatives from the OSSTF, Unifor, and the OECTA.
“They’ve gone four years without a contract, which is four years too long, frankly,” said Gretzky. “So we came out to show them some support while they’re out here on strike.”
The workers have also not had a wage increase over the course of the four years. Consisting of about 90% women, who live daily with deafness or other hearing impairments, the Hearing Society is demanding severe cutbacks to benefits.
“They want to get back to the table and hammer out a fair contract for both sides,” Gretzky said. “They waited four years for the employer to come forward with a fair contract, and that all they want. They just want to get back to work.”
Represented by CUPE, the strike for the employees of the Canadian Hearing Society falls close on the heels of the Essex County Library strike, which ended February 9 after 230 days. Gretzky isn’t anticipating this strike will as far reaching.
“The hope is that it won’t go that long, but really that’s going to up to the two parties,” she said. “If the Canadian Hearing Society is willing to get back to the table, and sit down and have a serious discussion about having a fair contract for these workers, then they’ll be back to work soon.”
Management for the Canadian Hearing Society is demanding major take-backs to health benefits. This is the first time in 40 years that there has been a work stoppage at CHS.
The offices in Windsor are located at Giles Boulevard East and McDougall Avenue. The CHS shares the building with some professional services as well as the United Way.
During the strike, the employees of the United Way have not crossed the picket line, opting instead to work from satellite offices. The striking workers are also receiving a great deal of support from the community as evidenced by the number of honking horns from passing motorists. Gretzky also reported that a number of Windsor residents have contacted her office to convey their support for CHS employees.
“We had a rally at Queen’s Park, to save schools for the deaf and hard of hearing, and we used workers from the CHS in order to provide interpreting services for the families who came to Queen’s Park,” Gretzky recalled. “So, I’m well aware of the valuable service they provide and believe they should have had a fair contract long before now.”