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Steelworkers Counter Anti-Union Practices at Community Care Agency

MONTREAL – Faced with the stalemate in negotiations over the last 10 months and a thinly veiled anti-union strategy at Diogenes suivi communautaire, the United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos has filed for arbitration for a first collective agreement. Quebec’s Labour Code allows for first-contract arbitration after unsuccessful negotiations and conciliation attempts.

“In the midst of the pandemic, Diogenes’ management is prioritizing the fight against unionization over delivering services to particularly vulnerable clients,” said Pierre Arseneau, Steelworkers Co-ordinator for the Montreal area.

“While the need for services is great, the employer has laid off an employee and refuses to replace absent workers, thus weakening the teams that assessed the needs of clients before employees decide to form a union. This is clearly an attempt to counter unionization by weakening front-line services,” said Arseneau.

Over the past year, the union has had to take legal action against anti-union practices. Six complaints have been filed on issues including employee dismissal, unlawful modification of working conditions after unionization, interference in the affairs of the union and unjustified discipline.

Management’s attitude is at odds with the social values of the community, Arseneau said.

“It is distressing to see management retreat into authoritarian behaviour and retaliation. We have reached out at the negotiating table to implement a principle of participatory management, as is in effect in many unionized community organizations. This principle was completely rejected by the management negotiating team,” he said.

The Steelworkers are requesting first-contract arbitration in the hope that management will come to terms with the reality of the union’s presence in the workplace.

“Our members are dedicated people who care about the mission of the organization. That hasn’t changed because they wanted to join a union. It is hoped that over time, the organization’s management will accept the will of the employees and work with them. A first collective agreement will help us get over the hump and create a more positive environment,” Arseneau concluded.

Diogène suivi communautaire helps people with mental health challenges associated with legal issues and/or homelessness.

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