OAKVILLE, Ont. – Halton social service workers who provide employment referral and income support to social assistance recipients say that the practice by Regional Municipality of Halton management not to fill vacant positions — job postings that have already been approved by council — is hurting both workers and the public.
Job gapping — a practice that leaves jobs vacant for up to eleven months — used widely by regional management, is resulting in high workloads, unmanageable caseloads, and unhealthy stress levels for the 70 regional staff who provide services to Halton’s growing number of unemployed.
“Many of the people accessing services are in crisis. They need immediate help to get their lives back on track. Sadly, the dedicated social workers who want to help them get back on their feet can’t help in a meaningful and timely way because, they too, have been thrown into crisis as a result of understaffing and crushing workloads,” says Humberto da Silva, the National Representative for Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3732.
Rather than fill job vacancies to ensure adequate front line staff to help those in need in the community, regional management has opted to schedule excessive hours of overtime. Many staff are working more than twice the amount of overtime hours permitted under the current contract, says da Silva. He is concerned that working excessive overtime is hurting the health and wellbeing of CUPE 3732’s predominantly female membership.
In a social assistance system that is already under-resourced, not filling approved jobs is highly suspect as a way of undermining the quality of public services and promoting options like contracting out and privatizing jobs.
While front line staffing positions go unfilled, more managers have been hired in what is an already top-heavy organization. And they are attending costly exclusive seminars, while front line staffing levels are inadequate, says da Silva. He stresses that the new regional council should take note that, although funding for desperately needed front line staff was approved, those positions have not materialized.
CUPE 3732 is currently in contract negotiations with the region. Job gapping and high caseloads are among the key bargaining issues. On November 1, 2006, members of CUPE 3732 voted 96 per cent in favour of strike action.
“Staff are at the breaking point. We’ve tried to rectify the outstanding issues but, so far, the regional bargaining team isn’t listening. Strike action is our last resort,” says da Silva.
For more information, please contact:
Humberto da Silva
CUPE National Representative