WINNIPEG – One day after locking out its workers, Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council (MIIC) / Welcome Place is claiming that services continue, and the financial demands of its employees are responsible for their financial shortfall, even though the MIIC caused employees to have pay reductions of 12.5-27.5% over the last year. MIIC continues to demand workers accept concessions on issues that will not affect their bottom line, says the Regional Director of CUPE in Manitoba.
Since threatening to lock out workers a couple of weeks ago, CUPE has been working hard to address the outstanding issues, but the employer has refused to meaningfully adjust their demands. As a result, refugee workers have been forced out of their jobs over just a few issues, including cuts to workers’ rights and benefits.
“MIIC workers have not made any demands on their employer; the MIIC are the ones making the demands,” said Lee McLeod, Regional Director of CUPE in Manitoba. “Our attempts to address the outstanding issues of employee rights and benefits have been ignored, and MIIC has put people out of work over only a few issues that they are unwilling to move past.”
“These workers feel pride over the service they provide and feel hurt and frustrated by the decision to lock them out. They are not in it for the money, but they do not want to give up benefits they already have,” said Scott Clark, National Servicing Representative for CUPE. “We are aware of the funding challenges faced by MIIC and have never made any unreasonable demands. For the employer to claim that they need to do this for the survival of the organization is just false.”
Employees of MIIC are skilled workers, with years of experience helping new Canadians find such things as housing, legal assistance, and employment opportunities. While locked out, they will not be able to provide those services.
“MIIC claims they will continue to provide services to our clients; however, we doubt that is remotely possible without major delays or quality concerns,” said Nasra Hassan, MIIC employee. “There is no way management can take on these needs, and other agencies do not have the capacity or experience MIIC staff bring to the table. We have witnessed clients walking away from the building after discovering the lockout, having no notice or direction from MIIC. Our members are heartbroken.”
MIIC continues to demand reductions of vacation and similar benefits, reductions of general holidays, reduced layoff notice, the deletion of maternity leave Employment Insurance top-up, and that employees pay more for their health benefits. This is all in the context of the reclassified jobs with lower wages and higher workloads.
Workers at MIIC will be eligible for strike pay from CUPE, and Local 2348 has agreed to top-up that pay, a move that will allow workers to provide for their families during the lock-out.
“CUPE will support the workers at MIIC who are being treated unfairly,” continued McLeod. “We will not stop trying to get a deal, and will not allow the employer to use a lock-out to remove issues from the contract that employees have come to depend on.”