·  Media release

Cuts at Seniors' Home Leave Residents, Staff Feeling Vulnerable

HAWKESBURY, Ont. - Workers at a seniors' home where two residents died in a 2012 fire are concerned about the implications of staffing cuts at the facility, including the elimination of full-time positions.

Despite the deadly fire in May 2012 at Place Mont Roc Retirement Home in Hawkesbury, owner Frank Zambito cut already thin nighttime staffing from two workers to a single employee responsible for 67 residents.

Now Zambito says he will eliminate all full-time jobs as of Feb. 15, leaving only part-time positions, with no benefits.

The cuts are shocking in the wake of last week's fire at a seniors' residence in L'Isle-Verte, Que., where 14 deaths have been confirmed and another 18 residents are considered missing.

"We want the families of our residents to know what is happening at Place Mont Roc," said Darlene Jalbert, a representative of the United Steelworkers (USW), which represents employees at the home.

"With the tragedy at L'Isle Verte, our residents are feeling a little vulnerable," Jalbert said.

"How does one worker evacuate 67 elderly residents during an emergency in the middle of the night? One person is simply not enough. To make matters worse the owner is now eliminating all full-time positions. It's crazy.

"We're worried with all these staffing cuts, this is another disaster waiting to happen."

The cuts will deal a blow to residents at the seniors' home who have close relationships with staff members, Jalbert said.

"Some of our workers have been at Place Mont Roc for over 20 years and for many residents, the staff are like family. The upheaval from these cuts will be difficult for elderly people who need the stability and sense of safety they get by having full-time staff take care of them every day."

The tragedy in L'Isle Verte has brought back painful memories for many staff and residents at Place Mont Roc. On the night of May 25, 2012, a fire broke out at the residence, killing an elderly couple. It was later confirmed that the facility did not have a sprinkler system, the same issue identified in last week's fire in L'Isle Verte.

Following the 2012 fire and financial difficulties experienced at Place Mont Roc, Zambito acquired the residence out of bankruptcy in August 2013.

Staff at the residence have been working under an expired collective agreement for more than 18 months, Jalbert said. Any possibility of reaching a new agreement, under the interest arbitration process for workers who don't have the right to strike, remains months away, she said.

The USW also is pursuing grievances and other legal mechanisms to fight the staffing cuts at the residence, Jalbert said.

For further information:

Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, bgallagher@usw.ca
Alexandra Eshelman, USW Strategic Campaigns, 416-544-5966, 416-570-9984, aeshelman@usw.ca
Darlene Jalbert, USW Local 1-1000 Representative, 613-931-1729, 613-362-4414, dee.jalbert@sympatico.ca

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