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Disabled residents impacted by support worker strike still waiting for answers as dispute rolls on

Residents of a Winnipeg housing development for people with physical disabilities remain caught in the middle of a labour dispute between its operator and the caregivers they rely on.

The healthcare workers went on strike last week – and since then residents say they’ve been experiencing major gaps in care.

Lori Ross has been living at Fokus II – run by Ten Ten Sinclair – for 40 years. But now – faced with the possiblity of not getting the care she needs – she has a tough choice.

“Now I’m in the midst of trying to decide, do I stay here and take chances with this minimal staff?” Ross said. “Do I go to my mom’s in Steinbach, where I would need to hire home care to help me temporarily there?”

Ross and the other tenants say since the healthcare support staff went on strike, there hasn’t been enough replacement workers to fulfill their needs, like getting them out of bed on time or showering.

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Many are worried that if something goes wrong, staff won’t be there to deal with a medical emergency.

CUPE Manitoba President Gina McKay says the staff met with Ten Ten Sinclair at the bargaining table on Monday, but no deal has been reached.

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She wants the staff back taking care of the tenants, but not before they get a fair deal, adding they are paid six to eight dollars lower than other healthcare workers across the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

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“Let’s not look at all the ways we need to just make ends meet,” McKay said.  “Let’s actually get these workers back in there, and it could happen as quickly as bringing forward a fair and equitable offer.”

Ten Ten Sinclair did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Monday.

Ross and the other tenants argue that their care should be considered an essential service – and Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara says the care gaps as a result of the strike are “concerning.”

“Moving forward down the road, it is important to make sure that there are no gaps in these services, there are no gaps in care, and our government is looking at ways to ensure that across the province, there are no disruptions to residents and patients across the province who are receiving quality care,” Asagwara said.

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Asagwara says they’ve been in regular contact with all parties – and are pushing for a quick resolution – but would not say whether the government would step in to end the strike.

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