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Front line workers with the Aids Committee of North Bay and Area could soon be facing a strike or lockout situation

'If we're not successful with contract negotiations on July 28, there will be job action as of July 29th' Kathleen Jodouin Strike Coordinator CUPE Local 4720-04

Frontline workers with the AIDS Committee of North Bay and Area, held a noon hour information rally Wednesday, to bring attention to what it refers to as 'government underfunding for HIV and Hep C services.'

"We want to let the federal and provincial governments and the employer know that they can no longer balance the books on the backs of their workers. Let's negotiate a fair deal," said Kathleen Jodouin, strike coordinator for CUPE Local 4720-4.

The Local represents one part time and 11 full time employees, who work in North Bay and other communities between Parry Sound and Timmins. 

The employees are currently in contract negotiations with the employer. 

The union blames years of underfunding for services as the reason why frontline workers haven't had a pay increase in years. 

The two sides negotiated their first collective agreement in 2015. It was a one year contract that expired last July. The two sides have been meeting since September 2016. Jodouin says the main stumbling blocks deal with fairness and pay equity. 

"Talks came to an impasse and a no-board was filed with the Ministry of Labour. It means that we've come to an impasse at the negotiation table and there could possibly be job action within so many days of that being filed," said Jodoiun."We are agreeing to come back to the table with a mediator from the Ministry of Labour to try and ensure that we can reach a deal."

The union is hoping the two sides will meet again on July 28th. 

"If we're not successful that day, there will be job action as of July 29th. We don't know if it will be a strike or a lockout at that point. We're hopeful that with today's rally, hopefully people will support us to show that no longer can employees be denied fair and equitable wages."

The workers are responsible for a variety of programs, both Hepatitis C and HIV focused, treatment teams including nurses and social workers, social support workers, administrative staff and communication educators. 

"As we know the government has frozen wages for a long time, and we've been victims of that. We have our membership that has had to take on second jobs, open up rooms in their homes to rent to make ends meet, as the cost of living continues to increase, our wages have been stalled. Enough is enough."

Executive Director of the AIDS Committee of North Bay and Area, Stacey Mayhall, says the 'Board and Management stand in solidarity with their employees for better wages and working conditions'.

"The harder edge of the chronic underfunding of really vital social services is always experienced firstly by the most vulnerable members of our community, our clients, and secondly by the professionals who dedicate their work lives to serving them."

Mayhall went on to say, "ACNBA looks forward to returning to the table on July 28th, but we are also aware that the sector is in dire need of a long overdue injection of funds, especially to support wages. There has not been an across the board increase in wages in the HIV and Hep C sector in Ontario since 2012." 

The North Bay and District Labour Council showed its support by attending the rally.

"The community benefits when we know that unions are doing what they're supposed to be doing, and that's working out a fair deal with management," said Jared Hunt, Communications Officer with the Labour Council.