The 227 members of CUPE Local 2073, Canadian Hearing Society workers, have been on strike since March 6. They have been without a contract — or a salary increase — for four years.
Full-time staff has been reduced by almost 30% over three years. In that same time period, the salaries of the president and CEO increased by a shocking 75 percent.
The Canadian Hearing Society is funded primarily by the Province of Ontario — that is, by taxpayers. Tax dollars that could be used to fund vital services are instead being funnelled into lavish executive salaries.
And the services these CUPE workers provide are vital indeed. What do the members of CUPE 2073 do?
— Highly skilled sign-language interpreters use sign language and spoken language to provide clear two-way communication between deaf and hearing people, so that deaf people can participate in mainstream life.
— Community workers provide coping and communication skills to older adults, including help with assistive technology, so seniors can remain safe and independent.
— General support workers provide a wide range of services and assistance so that people with different degrees of hearing loss can manage daily life.
— Language instructors assist newcomers to Canada, helping them learn English and ASL. (Sign language is not universal, so newcomers must learn both English and ASL.)
— Settlement workers provide services and guidance for Deaf, oral deaf, deafened, and hard of hearing newcomers, and teach daily life skills, to help people adapt to life in Canada and live independently.
— Counselors provide professional support for mental health issues, addiction, abuse, and other urgent needs, and help clients connect with appropriate healthcare resources.
— Audiologists and audiology assistants administer hearing tests, prescribe hearing aids, fit people with devices and teach how to use them, and even repair hearing aids.
The community has been shocked to learn that staff cutbacks and salary freezes coincide with outrageous executive salaries. In a recent CBC story, George Postlethwait Jr., president of the Ontario Association of the Deaf, called the steep increase in top executive salaries “a slap in the face to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.”
Canadian Hearing Society CEO Julia Dumanian earned almost $269,000 in 2016, $115,000 more than her predecessor earned in 2013. Dumanian was appointed CEO in 2015, after being fired on from her previous position at Cambridge Memorial Hospital for “outstanding and ongoing governance and management matters,” according to then-minister of health David Caplan.
Dumanian has declined to speak to the media and has made no public statements about the strike.
The members of CUPE 2073 are standing strong, fighting for a fair deal for themselves and quality services for the people who use their services. They need our support. Picket lines are active in 21 Ontario locations, and donations to the strike fund are greatly needed. See the CUPE Ontario website for picket locations and times, and where you can send donations.