Staff at St. Joseph's Villa represented by Mine Mill Local 598/Unifor weren't able to get time off to participate in their own information picket Friday morning, but that didn't stop other union members from taking up the mantle.
Eric Boulay, acting president, Mine Mill Local 598/Unifor, was among the more than 50 people staging the picket. The union represents about 250 employees — including personal support workers, cooks and environmental workers — at St. Joe's and St. Gabriel's Villa in Chelmsford. They have been working without a collective agreement for two years.
“Our members are the lowest paid health-care workers in the city right now,” Boulay said. “Neither of the villas can keep their workers, because their workers can't afford to work there. They end up leaving for other agencies or homes that pay better wages, which means those that are left have to work even more hours to fill in for the lack of workers.”
Workers are burning out because they can't get vacation time, Boulay said. As a result, many of them are having to go on medical leave because they just can't handle the stress.
“We want the employer to realize the issues their workers are having,” she said. “We've had many discussions with them, and it didn't seem like they were really hearing us. They tell us they want to get back to negotiations, but they aren't offering anything. They are just asking for concessions. Our members already aren't well compensated for the work they are doing.”
Boulay said the biggest thing for his members is the fact the employer isn't willing to budge on the wages. The average wage for his members right now is about $17 an hour, while other workers at other homes in the city are being paid about $20 an hour for the same work.
“Our members really care about the people in these homes, and this is what they are passionate about,” he said.