Workers strike at St. John's seniors home

Unionized workers at Elizabeth Towers, an assisted-living complex in St. John's, have walked off the job.

Unionized workers at Elizabeth Towers, an assisted-living complex in St. John's, walked off the job Wednesday afternoon.

The strike action came just a short time after the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and management of the home met with the labour board to try to avoid a walkout.

Elizabeth Towers is a retirement home for more than 100 senior citizens and people with disabilities.

Pay and benefits are the biggest issues, as the union attempts to negotiate its first agreement with the company that operates the facility, Chartwells Seniors Housing for Atlantic Canada.

Edwina Kirkland, the vice-president of Chartwells, said that if the workers got their demands, the cost would ultimately be passed on to residents.

"You have to remember that Elizabeth Towers is not a publicly funded organization, and we don't believe it is possible for our residents to fund the current wage demands," Kirkland said. "We have to be fair to them as they are our primary concern."

Kirkland said managers would now care for the people who live in the home. She met with the residents on Wednesday afternoon to talk about how the strike would affect them.

Kirkland told CBC News on Wednesday morning, before the walkout, that if there was a strike, management would try to bring in workers from other Chartwells facilities. She said they also might look for help from other homes and Eastern Health, the province's largest health authority. 

The workers at Elizabeth Towers include kitchen staff, building maintenance and personal care assistants.