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Ottawa - A new Ontario study sends a warning to other provinces that under funding and restructuring of the social services sector in Ontario has led to increased injuries, stress and health problems among workers.

The study “Improving work organization to reduce injury and illness: social services, stress, violence and workload” by Dr. Donna Baines of McMaster University and funded by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, documents that the restructuring of the social services sector has resulted in reduced funding. This has dramatically increased the workloads and health risks associated with overwork and burnout among staff. Restructuring has also exposed workers and clients to higher levels of stress and violence. The study also uncovered serious incidents of workplace bullying and identifies a rapid growth in the phenomena of “traumatic work culture”.

CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Claude Généreux says that the union participated in the study in order to document the specific problems that have been affecting thousands of CUPE members who work in social service agencies in Ontario and across the country.

CUPE is taking up the problem of workload across the country. We are calling on the federal government to take action by reversing the cuts in transfer payments for social services to the provinces,” he said.

“We are determined to gain respect for this critical care sector in Canada. Social service workers are supposed to provide support and assistance to people in our communities. How can they do this effectively when they are suffering because of their own working conditions and circumstances?

“This report documents the problems and makes recommendations that could restore respect and health to this sector of dedicated workers”, he said. “This is one of the key goals of our RESPECT campaign to address issues of concern to social service workers.”

The report recommends several measures including an immediate increase in government funding, the incorporation of worker’s knowledge into how work is organized and planned, guaranteed and sufficient hours of work so that part-time employees can support themselves, an end to the use of split shifts, a cap on overtime and hiring of additional full-time staff in order to ensure workplace stability. The report also calls for the introduction of immediate, assertive, transparent measures to improve workplace morale and eradicate traumatic workplace cultures.

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For information, contact:
Sandra Sorensen, CUPE Communications
– (613) 237-1590
Donna Baines
– (416) 471-2255 (cell)