Housing workers under the CUPE 109 umbrella employed by Kingston Frontenac Housing Corporation (KFHC) are in a position to strike, after being without a contract since December 2020.
According to a release from the union, the workers are calling on their employer to negotiate a fair deal that would help them deliver better service to KFHC residents.
“Throughout the pandemic, CUPE 109 housing workers went above and beyond to maintain optimum service delivery to residents,” said Adam Bol, president of CUPE 109, in a statement. “We were considered essential workers and ensured our clients received the supports they needed while taking on additional responsibilities. But now that we want fair compensation, KFHC is refusing to acknowledge our value.”
CUPE 109’s housing unit represents 25 maintenance, administrative, building monitors, and clerical workers who provide services for over 10,000 KFHC residents residing in a range of homes including semi-detached, row housing, and apartment units, according to the release.
Bol also said that KFHC should look at this opportunity to “invest in retention and recruitment, as they are currently bleeding workers to attrition due to tough working conditions and subpar wages.” Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, KFHC has added 30 buildings to its portfolio without a substantive increase in staffing levels to maintain manageable workloads, he said.
The union noted that KFHC’s expansion during a housing crisis is “a positive sign, as Kingston desperately needs more affordable units.” They also stated, “it’s the workers’ commitment and dedication that makes the operation viable.”
According to the release, in December 2022, members voted 100 per cent in favour of a strike if the employer refuses to negotiate a fair deal. The union stated that KFHC is offering an average of 1.5 per cent wage increase annually “despite soaring inflation.”
“I have been around for over 30 years and have never witnessed the extent of employee turnover we are seeing at the moment,” said one of the frontline workers who did not want to be named in the media release for fear of repercussions. “KFHC should listen to our concerns and meaningfully address them. Otherwise, they will lose committed and loyal workers, and the quality of the service will suffer.”
“We are facing a housing crisis and we should seek to expand and improve our social housing programs. KFHC could play a leadership role in the coming years. But that can’t happen if they don’t respect their own workers who provide the service,” Bol added.
In response to inquiries from Kingstonist, Mary Lynn Cousins Brame, Chief Executive Officer of KFHC, said she finds the union’s public stance on the matter “premature, given that KFHC and CUPE Local 109 have agreed to mediation which will take place within the next two weeks.”
“I am optimistic we will come to an agreement,” she said. “Out of respect for our tenants and staff, I won’t be providing details and negotiating through the media.”
With files from Tori Stafford.