You’d expect a healthy workplace environment at the Canadian Mental Health Association, wouldn’t you?


city_scope_logo-cmykThey deal with some of the most vulnerable members of the community, but staff at the Elgin branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association say they are struggling with their own unbearable stress.
And now, members of OPSEU Local 133 are breaking the silence.
Bolstered by CMHA members from Oxford, about two dozen staff took a stand outside the Centre Street office where they claim to be working in an environment of fear, intimidation and anxiety.
According to Carol Warner, OPSEU staff representative, St. Thomas employees are consistently targeted and penalized by upper management for speaking up about health, safety and other workplace concerns.
“It’s hideous, it’s a long-standing issue,” notes Warner. “I would say it’s a systemic issue. We have grievances in the docket that are, at a minimum, four or five years old. And the grievance program has flaws as well.
“If one decides to, they can influence how quickly or how slowly the grievance process unfolds.” Continue reading

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Utility merger could power an expanded vision for St. Thomas Elevated Park


city_scope_logo-cmykAs if playing home to this country’s first elevated park wasn’t high enough honour, St. Thomas could be one starting point for an ambitious trail project – an undertaking pinned to the pending merger of St. Thomas Energy and Entegrus, based out of Chatham-Kent.
Earlier this week Serge Lavoie, president of On Track St. Thomas, released details of what the St. Thomas Elevated Park will look like when the gate at the eastern approach swings open Aug. 27. 
When the organization acquired the former Michigan Central Railroad trestle – built in 1929 at a cost of $689,000 – the purchase included 4 km of railway right-of-way at the western end of the structure running to Lyle Road in Southwold.

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More sensitivity and less stunt when reaching out to the homeless


city_scope_logo-cmykThe promotion was called Sleepless In Our City, a well-intentioned fundraiser for the United Way of Elgin-St. Thomas. In capsule form, former MP Joe Preston and Tim Smart, the regional sales manager for a couple of local radio stations, were going to bundle up and spend the night sleeping – if possible – in the back seat of their respective cars. In the case of Tim, a Honda Civic.
(Full disclosure here, I spent several years as a volunteer on the United Way campaign cabinet and the entire team is to be applauded for raising in excess of $485,000 in this year’s campaign, as announced Friday evening.)
The media release from the United Way noted, “In Elgin St. Thomas, 20% of home owners and 42% of renters were spending more than 30% of their household income on shelter costs.”

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There’s always room for one more manager at city hall


city_scope_logo-cmykAs far as media releases go, Wednesday’s city hall advisory was brimming with corporate bravado.
“With its sights set on the strengthening of its leadership and organizational management, streamlining corporate financial management and the continued renewal of the Environmental Services Department,” the release breathlessly announced, “City Council has put in motion a number of strategic changes.”
What this declaration shamefully failed to include was three people would lose their jobs in the organizational restructuring.
Why the oversight?
Does their escort out the doors of city hall cast doubt on the true motives at play?
This restructuring is predicated, in part, by the findings of a curious report presented to council last fall.
The Dobbie Report — ostensibly an organizational review of the environmental services department — noted senior managers at city hall felt the lack of staff was an issue along with the need for more advanced equipment and technology such as cell phones and laptop computers. Continue reading

Community Living Elgin cuts will improve quality of life in what way?


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The cuts to staff and programs at Community Living Elgin are nothing short of devastating.
And the union’s call to action urging Minister of Community and Social Services Helena Jaczek to audit the organization’s leadership, finances and operations in a bid to bring meaningful change must not go unheeded.
OPSEU vice-president Ron Elliott ups the ante even further.
“We’ve called for the minister to put Community Living Elgin in trusteeship. To take it over, to put in a monitor.”
Citing a $700,000 deficit, the organization plans to eliminate 17 full-time positions — 64 staff cuts in total — as well as close the drop-in centre at the Talbot Teen Centre, eliminate the day support programming at 2 Curtis St., and shut down a group home on East St.
The dire situation prompted Karen Barr, whose sister has been a client of Community Living Elgin for many years and who will be negatively impacted by the cuts, to forward a copy of a letter our way addressed to executive director Tom McCallum (no relation), several directors, board president Bob Ashcroft and MPP Jeff Yurek. Continue reading

We welcome your business, but not right there


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It should be a fair assumption the city has an open door policy to welcome new business to St. Thomas and make the move here as seamless as possible. Why would you operate in any other fashion?

So why are city staff — and to a lesser extent some members of city council — throwing up roadblocks and mounds of red tape in the direction of Kristie Morgan, who operates a much-needed adult day nursery at 24 Elizabeth St?

A nursery that operates six hours each weekday and employs five people in a city starved for jobs.

Yes she was afforded a small victory Monday when council allowed her to continue to operate her Time For You 2 facility in an area zoned residential, which permits churches, private schools and day nurseries limited to children under 18 with a developmental handicap.

Morgan’s operation deals with those over 18 years of age who benefit greatly from the life and social skills offered by Morgan and her staff. In the process affording much needed relief for the parents of these individuals.
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Common sense and the city’s zoning bylaws


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Kristie Morgan is discovering her dream of bettering the lives of adults with developmental handicaps has run afoul of the city’s zoning bylaws and her bid for a zoning amendment will be front and centre at Monday’s meeting of council.

Morgan operates what is referred to as an “adult day nursery” at 24 Elizabeth St., which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Its a residential setting — known as Time For You 2 — where adults with special needs are catered to through a variety of activities that teach life and social skills while providing a much-needed respite for the families of these individuals.

The adult nursery is unique in St. Thomas, however the city would rather Morgan move her operation to an area zoned as industrial or commercial.
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