Contract negotiations between Napanee, Ont.-based Lennox and Addington Interval House and Unifor Local 414, the union representing the company’s employees, have reached an impasse over maintaining the workers’ wellness fund.

LAIH, a shelter serving women and children fleeing domestic violence, and the union have been locked in a conciliation process since March 10, 2021. The current collective agreement with the shelter’s employees has been expired for more than one year and covers approximately 20 workers, noted a press release. After the union put forward five language issues it wanted updated in the new contract agreement, the company tabled a concessionary request to do away with its employees’ wellness fund, says Mike Armstrong, local consultant for Unifor Local 414. Being a shelter worker who deals with distressed women and children in the community is a very stressful job to begin with, he says, adding that after the union received that concessionary response from LAIH, it broke off negotiations.

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The wellness fund provides LAIH’s employees with $450 to use on resources and services that foster their mental health and well-being, including counselling, psychological assessments, psychiatrists, registered massage therapy, gym memberships, yoga or participation in physical activities.

The union is also asking LAIH to post temporary, full-time positions whenever employees go on leave for three months or more. Armstrong says the workers want to ensure women in crisis at the shelter will have adequate support at all times. And, he says the organization already has part-time and casual workers, so if the company posted those positions on a temporary, full-time basis when an employee goes on leave, it would allow its part-time and casual workers the ability to move into a more stable position or LAIH could opt to hire from outside.

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This wouldn’t be reinventing the wheel, says Armstrong, as the organization’s sister locations in the region already post those positions and their employees have maintained their wellness fund.

In total, Armstrong says there are 15 language issues in the old contract agreement that need updating. “There’s just some archaic language that we’re trying to get the employer to come around on so we can build a relationship and work with them.”

Representatives for LAIH didn’t respond to a request for comment.