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Mental health, addictions workers locked out in Cochrane, Timiskaming districts

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An employee lockout will impact service through the Canadian Mental Health Association's Cochrane Timiskaming branch starting Tuesday morning.

Some of the services will be temporarily disrupted as of 12:01 a.m. Feb. 13, the agency said in a news release Monday.

"We will continue to inform our current service recipients of the details of service limitations during the labour disruption," the CMHA said.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/SEFPO) said in a news release Monday evening it had been notified workers who provide life-saving mental health and addictions support in several northern Ontario communities were being locked out.

Maggie Wakeford, president of OPSEU Local 631, told CTV News that 147 workers are locked out.

Wages and working conditions are some of the issues in the labour dispute and OPSEU/SEFPO President JP Hornick said his members are struggling to provide for their families amid the cost of living crisis.

"After months of tense bargaining, talks broke down when the CMHA Cochrane-Timiskaming demanded claw-backs to workers' long-term disability benefits for access to a pension," OPSEU said.

"The 147 workers include front-line nurses, case managers, clinicians, residential and peer support workers and Occupational Therapists in Timmins, Iroquois Falls, Matheson, Kirkland Lake, Cochrane, and New Liskeard."

A total of 1,600 clients use its services, Wakeford said.

OPSEU said the lockout is putting lives at risk "as northern communities continue to face the highest rate of opioid deaths in the province."

"These workers care deeply about their communities; they want to continue providing the support that vulnerable clients need," said Hornick.

"But their employer would rather demand claw-backs and issue threats than recognize their value."

In case of emergency, immediate support can be accessed 24/7 through:

  • Nearest hospital emergency room
  • 988 Suicide Crisis Helpline, available 24/7
  • Health 211
  • Cochrane District Crisis Response Service 1-888-340-3003 in Timmins area

"We understand that these circumstances may be difficult for our clients and community members," the CMHA said.

"We are diligently working toward an early resolution to this temporary service interruption."

The following services will continue during the labour disruption:

  • Medication support and delivery, including injections and Clozaril monitoring
  • Most appointments with doctors and physicians
  • Call-in and walk-in services may be limited

-- With files from CTVNorthernOntario.ca journalist Lydia Chubak

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