After nearly a year in negotiations with their employer, members of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation Personal Care home – Local 367 voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action today.
“Our Local 367 members currently make 14% less than workers at other care homes, even though they have the same training and job descriptions,” said MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky. “It’s unfair and it’s gone on for far too long.”
This is not the first time these members have gone on strike. At the end of 2017, the support workers walked a strike line for almost three weeks, for the same reason. In the end, they received a 13% wage increase, which went about halfway to addressing the inequity in pay.
Leaders of NCN Cree Nation say they have been working for some time with the federal government (which funds 17 beds), and the provincial government (which funds the other 7 beds), to increase funding. But so far, no commitments have been made.
“The reality is that all First Nations PCHs are underfunded, even though we provide the same care and services as other rural care homes that are 100 per cent funded by the province,” says Kathleen Bluesky, chief executive officer of the NCN Cree Nation. “If we received the same funding, we wouldn’t have wage disparity. Our employees are feeling disrespected and frustrated. They need to strike every time just to be treated equally. It’s not fair to them and it’s not fair to our Elders.”
Gawronsky says what’s needed at this point is a commitment from both governments to address the inequity once and for all.
“Our members are deeply committed to the Elders in their care,” she said. “It should never come to this. But our members also know their community is behind them in their fight for fairness.”