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Uncertainty for workers

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, April 07, 2008

Fort Smith - Fort Smith's Trailcross Treatment Centre for children will have a new operator come July 1.

Wood's Homes of Calgary won the tender to operate the group home and will be replacing Bosco Homes of Edmonton.

The change has left workers uncertain about their future at the nine-bed treatment centre for children aged 13 to 16 with social, emotional and/or behavioural difficulties.

Todd Parsons, the president of the Union of Northern Workers representing 18 counsellors and support workers at Trailcross, said they will all be laid off as of June 30.

Parsons said some of the employees may be rehired by the new operator.

"That's possible, but we have no confirmation of that," he said. "Certainly, there is concern among the workers."

A spokesperson for Wood's Homes could not be reached for comment. The change of operator also means the end of the collective agreement at Trailcross, since it was signed with Bosco Homes.

G.R. (Gus) Rozycki, executive director/CEO of Bosco Homes, said the new operator will not be obliged to keep any of the staff.

"This is not a successor situation," Rozycki said.

Plus, he said, even if any of the staff are rehired, there will be no seniority.

"It's like starting over," he said.

The contract was awarded by the Department of Health and Social Services, in conjunction with the Fort Smith Health and Social Services Authority.

Robert Tordiff, the authority's CEO, said the final details of the new contract with Wood's Homes are still to be worked out, including the length and value of the contract.

The previous contract with Bosco Homes expired March 31, but was extended to June 30 to facilitate the transition to the new operator.

"They have a demonstrated history of operating homes of this type," Tordiff said of Wood's Homes. "We anticipate a good working relationship with them."

This will be Wood's home first operation in the NWT, according to Peter Wittig, director.

Wittig was unable to say if the staffing levels at the centre would change or how many of the present staff would be hired back.

"Our position is we hope there are some good workers in Fort Smith and they will apply for positions in our agency," said Wittig.

Bosco Homes has operated Trailcross since 2000 and submitted a bid to continue in that role.

Bosco Homes did win the contract to remain the operator of the Territorial Treatment Centre in Yellowknife.

Workers at Trailcross cannot comment on the situation because of confidentiality issues.