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Niagara Pathstone workers challenge Board, government, to look at agency spending

We the North
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Pathstone Mental Health, a not-for-profit agency, has three managers on the recently released Ontario “Sunshine List”:  Ellis Katsof, Chief Executive Officer; David Alexandriw, Director of Business Services and Bill Helmeczi, Director of Mental Health Services. Based on the List numbers, it is estimated that these three managers have received wage increases of between four and six per cent over the past year. Meanwhile jobs in this agency that provide critical services to the community have been eliminated.

OPSEU President, Warren (Smokey) Thomas expressed concern for this evidence of waste. “Providing services to the vulnerable members of our community are clearly not a priority for this agency. If these top three managers received substantial wage increases, it makes you wonder what the other managers got.”

New targeted funding first announced in the 2011 Provincial Budget was allocated to Children's Mental Health Agencies in the fall of 2011. This targeted funding was used to create 13 new front-line positions at Pathstone in an attempt to deal with a long waiting list. However, this has come at a cost to other valued programs.  At the same time staff were being hired to fill these new positions, staff from other core services were being cut. "It is unclear how this decision will address the waitlist and benefit clients. It just doesn't make sense," said OPSEU Child Treatment Sector Chair, Deb Gordon. “This employer is more interested in how things look than actually delivering services to the clients."

“We need a formal review of how Pathstone is choosing to spend its funding,” said Gordon. “The clients deserve transparency and services they can count on."

There have been five staff layoffs so far in 2012, another five layoffs in 2011, and 13 layoffs in 2010. Meanwhile the number of managers has doubled since 2004. Said OPSEU Local 214 President, Leisa Burberry: “Workers at Pathstone are being undermined by this agency’s upside-down priorities. How are we supposed to deliver the quality services families depend on when core staff are cut annually to balance the budget?”

The 104 OPSEU members at Pathstone provide quality public services to children and youth from birth to their 18th birthday. They are highly trained professionals and include counselors, crisis workers, administration workers and therapists.

For more information:

Leisa Burberry, OPSEU Local 214 President, 289-686-0208 (c)
Judy Robertson, OPSEU Staff Representative, 289-257-0752 (c)