Brandie Pritchard works with the Path Unit in Access to Housing at Ontario Works. She has been with department since 2008. Prior to Access to Housing, Brandie worked in Children’s Services. She began in administrative work and then as a staffing coordinator, she coordinated staff at the 12 regional child cares centres.
Brandie and the other members of CUPE Local 966 are currently on strike.
“I’m supportive of this strike because I truly believe in equity. I think all staff and management should be treated the same. If management and non-bargaining unit staff got two per cent than we should as well and need we to be treated with the same respect as they are.”
Brandie is also the single parent of a 4 1/2 year old son named Riley. He goes to one of the licensed, regulated Region of Peel child care centres and his spot is subsidized.
“So at least I have that [child care] covered. But, I’m living off my life savings right now for rent, food and all my other expenses because our strike pay doesn’t kick in until we’ve been on the picket line for ten days,” she says. “I’ll be ok for a few weeks, if the strike goes that long, but then I’ll have to find work. At this point I’m just taking it one day at a time.”
“To feel good on the line, we have music and we’re keeping our spirits up. There’s lots of dancing on the line. We get tons of honks from people driving by and that helps with spirits too.”
It is a frustrating job because of the long wait times, which are some of the longest wait times in the province. Managing client expectations is difficult because of these delays and the anxiety of the clients. Brandie says, “Sometimes the same person will call every week asking when there will be a spot and we have to tell them, over and over, that as soon as a spot becomes available we’ll let them know. We have no idea when other people will move and moving up the list is slow.”
Victims of violence, who get priority for available housing, have a three-year wait list. Seniors must wait three to seven years, and families an average of nine to twelve years.
Brandie explains that it feel good when they are able to redirect clients to other services and agencies offered in the region, or to send people for mental health support and seniors to Community Care Access for assistance.
“We work in high stress jobs and they have put a short cap on our sick days. Meanwhile I’ve been told that management and on-bargaining unit people start at 20 days.”
CUPE 966 represents approximately 3,500 community and municipal workers in 18 different bargaining units, serving a diverse community of more than one million residents in the Region of Peel, Ontario.
- Visit the CUPE 966 website for more information