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It has been more than a month now to Canadian Hearing Society’s strike. To recap the highlights: 221 workers have been working for four years without a contract. Negotiations for wage increase keeps getting turned down as the organization is not ready to grant all of the employees’ demands.
The point of disagreement of this strike is the sick leave, which have been banked. The employees want to buy out their sick leaves and are demanding a short-term disability program to recuperate from repetitive strain injury. Talks broke off again last Friday and the organization’s vice president believes that it will be hashed out eventually.
According to CHS’s employment consultant Stacey Connor, the organization has become all about “fixing deaf people, which is disrespectful”. This battle is more about CHS’s raison d’être than benefits and wages. CHS has been serving deaf people for 77 years. They have a diverse clientele which includes:
• Oral Deaf People: The ones that have profound hearing loss and use words to communicate
• Culturally Deaf: The ones who view deafness not as pathology but as a culture
• Hard Of Hearing: The ones who use hearing aids for severe or mild hearing loss
• The Deafened: The ones who lose hearing after a few years into their life
According to the deaf people, their aim is to live a barrier-free life where ableism and audism are rampant.
Lately, CHS has fallen short on this goal and has begun relying on a medical model. The organization has been focusing more on selling hearing aids and doing audiology tests. According to Connor, this is not enough to ensure deaf people’s culture and language.
To this, CHS’s vice president Gary Malkowski replied that the deaf community is changing, which means ‘we’ have to adopt new methods to fulfil their needs. He further added that some people are reluctant to accept the change, but technology can help them join the mainstream. His last words on the matter were that he will not apologize for bringing innovation into the deaf culture.