L&A Interval House workers grieve terminations, demand arbitration

Unifor is outraged after members returned to work following a nearly six-month-long strike at Napanee’s Lennox and Addington Interval House, only to be terminated.

Striking shelter workers at the Lennox and Addington Interval House (LAIH) accepted and unanimously ratified the employer’s most recent offer on March 29, 2022, ending their five-month-long strike.

100s of adult supporters and children joined their moms, grandmas, aunts, sisters and friends on the picket line in February as a show of support after 100 days on strike. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell.
Hundreds of adult supporters and children joined their moms, grandmas, aunts, sisters, and friends on the picket line in February 2022 as a show of support after LAIH workers marked 100 days on strike. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell.

“The women of LAIH went on strike to improve their working conditions and the services that they deliver. To be met with these unfair and unjustified terminations upon return to work is shameful behaviour from an employer that claims to espouse equity and justice,” said Katha Fortier, Unifor Assistant to the National President.

Instead of receiving schedules to start working again, more than half of the Unifor Local 414 bargaining unit members at LAIH have already been terminated from their jobs at the shelter. The shelter’s Executive Director, Sue Weir, called for disciplinary meetings and immediately terminated the now six full-time shelter staff who were seeking to return to work. 

Unpredictable and unfair terminations and fair union representation in disciplinary processes were one of the main priorities in the recently concluded negotiations, which dragged on for more than a year.

“This is unbelievable behaviour of Sue Weir,” stated Mike Armstrong, the servicing representative (consultant) for Local 414. “You know, this is why the membership went out on strike, it was about language issues in the contract and about fair treatment in the workplace. This is just pure anti-union animus. Incredible. Incredible.”

Attempts to contact Weir for comment were met with a voicemail message that she would be out of the office until Wednesday, May 18, 2022. Asked for his thoughts on Weir’s absence, Armstrong laughed.

“Isn’t that incredible? I guess maybe she took a well, well, deserved vacation,” he said with a chuckle. “I don’t know what the hell it means.”

“But,” he continued, “there are timelines, and we’re going to proceed to arbitration, and we will see what their employer’s evidence is. It better be good. They’re going to have to justify a whole lot… we are going to have meetings soon, and then we are going to arbitration on every single one [of the grievances].”

Unifor Local 414 filed grievances on each of the terminations, and the union intends to challenge these terminations through all available avenues as quickly as possible.

Armstrong also confirmed that the Board of Directors had a representative at every one of the firings.

“Let me say this: this tells us that the Board of Directors condones this type of behaviour,” he said. “So, it’s not about providing services to the female population – and that’s what the mandate of any shelter is. They should treat women with respect; not only the ones they serve, but the ones they employ. It’s just incredible.”

Gord Currie, President of the Unifor Local 414, expressed similar dismay and outrage over the recent developments.

“Workers have a right in Ontario to join a union, to bargain, and to fight for their rights, and LAIH management is denying workers of those rights with these unfair terminations,” he said. “Members wanted to return to work and continue supporting survivors of violence in the community, but clearly management’s only goal was to bust their union.”

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada.

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