Striking workers at Leeds and Grenville Interval House have reached an agreement with management, bringing an end to a two-week work stoppage.
The United Steelworkers union (USW) announced Tuesday it has agreed on a new collective agreement.
Members of USW Local 8327 ratified the deal in an online vote on Monday.
The 20 workers, all women, are counsellors and front-line staff, providing services to both temporary residents and external clients trying to escape domestic violence, union officials added.
“Staff at the Leeds and Grenville Interval House are upbeat and hopeful the new contract – their first collective agreement – marks a fresh start,” a USW statement added.
The two-year deal includes wage increases of one per cent a year and codifies the workers’ benefits in the collective agreement language, the union added.
“The wage increases will be the first the staff have received in over 10 years,” they continued.
Reached on Monday ahead of the announcement, Kellie Hare, USW Local 8327 Unit chairwoman, expressed relief.
“I’m pleased that it’s done and that services are going to go back to normal,” she said.
Interval House executive director Charlene Catchpole, reached for comment on Monday, responded Tuesday with a brief emailed statement on behalf of management.
“We are pleased to announce that the work disruption that commenced on April 20, 2021 has ended and that after a lengthy period of bargaining, the employer and the union have successfully achieved a first collective agreement which has been ratified by both parties,” the statement reads.
“Violence against women in our community continues to be on the rise and we look forward to continuing to provide these vital services to our vulnerable clients and serve women, children and youth in our community.”
In March, the union members voted in favour of strike action amid what they called a “dysfunctional work environment” and an “unsafe workplace.”
The workers’ salaries range from $22 to $24 an hour.
Despite the agreement, the union took issue with earlier statements from management about the start of the strike.
When the labour disruption started, an Interval House statement noted that: “Because the union members withdrew their services with little notice, the employer was forced to ensure continuity of services to our clients in the middle of the night.”
In Tuesday’s statement, the Steelworkers said: “The staff never deserted their clients, however, despite media reports to the contrary.
“We were on site making sure members of the management team were available, before we began our legal strike,” added Hare.
“We care deeply about the women and their children escaping domestic violence, who we support. We’re eager to return to work. This agreement helps us do that with our heads held high,” added Hare.
She said Monday the new collective agreement is “a springboard for the future and a start.”
While claims of a toxic workplace are not addressed in the new deal, Hare said she hopes the agreement in itself will lead to further improvements.
“We’re hopeful for some change,” said Hare.
Interval House management has denied there is “an unsafe workplace” at the shelter.
Demand for the shelter’s services has increased by 50 per cent with a rise in domestic violence since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, union members noted.