Espanola – Developmental services residential and vocational support counsellors - who are members of CUPE 2462 (Community Living Espanola) - began strike action on 12:01am Saturday, May 14 after mediation talks with their hard-line employer failed.
CUPE 2462 is one of more than 30 CUPE locals in the community living sector bargaining a new contract in 2005. While provincial underfunding of the sector has made for a difficult bargaining climate, CUPE 2462 faced an uncompromising employer who tabled 103 pages of concessions. Of those locals in bargaining that have settlements all have achieved modest wage increases, no concessions and an employer commitment to engage in a joint lobbying campaign for increased provincial funding for the sector.
Community Living Espanola has been in turmoil since problems with the previous administration surfaced more than a year ago and the executive director of Sudbury Developmental Services was appointed to run the agency. Since the appointment, labour relations and worker morale at the Espanola agency have deteriorated steadily.
Key in the dispute is scheduling that impacts on the recruitment of new developmental service staff and the quality of life for existing workers. A province-wide employer-commissioned study found that because community living workers earn 25 per cent less than other social service workers, agencies had problems retaining workers and recruiting new trained staff. Unable to keep pace with new staff recruitment, workers are often forced to work three shifts in a 48-hour period.
“The Espanola management refused to recognize how their inability to recruit new workers and their scheduling practices adversely impact front line staff and how this ultimately compromises the quality of services to clients. CUPE 2462 members are facing enormous workload stress. They are also demoralized that their agency administration does not have the same commitment to quality services that they do,” says Kathy Johnson, Ontario Social Services Coordinator.
Wages are also an issue. The employer has not met the province-wide benchmark for a modest wage settlement (2 per cent) and no concessions, yet has opted to hire scabs and Canadian Security Management as the strong-arm security.
There is concern some of the individuals with developmental disabilities in residential care will be moved to programs run by Sudbury Developmental Services.
For more information contact:
Anna Sweet CUPE National Representative (705) 674-7557
Stella Yeadon CUPE Communications (416) 578-8774