TORONTO – Striking Homes First workers and their
supporters will rally outside Toronto city hall on Feb. 20 after 70 staff
members of the housing agency walked off the job Monday. Homes First
provides support services for the homeless to find permanent housing.
The Wednesday rally is scheduled for noon to
“Morale is great on the picket line even if
the weather isn’t,” said Kathleen Demareski, a negotiator for the workers
who are represented by Local 540 of the Ontario Public Services Employees
Union. “We do not want to be on strike but regrettably management has chosen
not to bargain with us.”
The union met with the employer at the
Ontario Labour Relations Board on Feb. 14 to discuss the bad faith
bargaining complaint it had filed. The employer refused further negotiations
to avoid a work stoppage.
Homes First receives more than $6 million in
funding from the City of Toronto. The union is calling on city council to
demand that Homes First open its books to public scrutiny – which it refuses
to do -- and to urge management to get back to the bargaining table.
“The Homes First Society has a horrible
track record of bad fiscal management which is why we believe they have no
interest in bargaining in good faith,” said Demareski. “That’s why we need a
strong show of support from city council. After all, it’s public money we’re
Issues in the dispute include wages,
benefits and job security.
Picket lines have been organized outside the
main office of Homes First at 90 Shuter Street. Lines will be set up at
seven other Homes First locations in the city later this week.