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Speaking out

Dear editor:

I am writing this letter as I feel a situation has gone on in this community too long and there appears no likelihood of it changing in the near future. I am speaking about the strike between the Fort Frances and District Association for Community Living and its workers.

I must admit to not being very knowledgeable about the situation and have seen little attempt by either the union or management to educate the public about the situation. What little education appearing in the local paper has been by the union. As a result you will find my understanding very simplistic and some facts may be in error.

My understanding is that the strike seems to be going on for about over 100 days and since the strike started there has been no formal communication between labour and management. Labour says that they are being grossly under paid for what they are doing and in comparison to others doing the same job.

Management does not dispute that but says that there is no money to pay more. That raises the question that if other organizations are able to get more money for their workers why is this association unable to do so? While the strike has gone on workers have picketed and management has worked long hours to provide a minimum basic service for their customers (clients).

Unfortunately the mentally handicapped (customers) have been paying full price for what is basically partial service. They have been fed, clothed and housed but the extras like a place to go, activities to do have been severely curtailed.

The Activity Centre, Good Impressions & the Consignment Shop have been closed down as well as work placements brought to a close. Other activity that they used to be involved in like Special Olympics and NORTRA have virtually ceased. Something has to be done!

The Union and Management have their positions and neither seem able or willing to budge. If they have room to negotiate then they should get together and negotiate. If help is needed they should apply for a mediator.

Considering the length of the strike it should be quite easy to get a mediator. Someone has to ask. If both sides feel they have no room to negotiate and mediation will not help them maybe arbitration, or other externally enforced settlement is required.

If things are not settled the only hope is more money from government or the union will be broke and non-union people hired or the Association declared unable to provide services and another service provider given the contract to look after some of our needier citizens.

None of these solutions with the possible exception of more government largesse seem acceptable. I would implore either the union or Association to try to arrange another meeting and settle this or ask the Association to request help from the government (either money or government action) for assistance.

One way or the other this situation must get resolved and I believe that a larger onus is on the Association as they have more options open to them then the union does.

If my analysis is an error or totally “out to lunch” I would appreciate your feedback to correct my impression of things. I would also appreciate hearing the Unions or Managements or Boards of Directors views on this issue.

Yours truly,

A concerned citizen,

Jim Zucchiatti

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