OTTAWA – Tamir, an Ottawa community living agency for people with developmental disabilities, is one of a handful of agencies denying its frontline workers thousands of dollars in provincially funded wage increases.
The agency’s refusal to follow the rules laid out by Ontario’s Ministry of Community and Social Services is also undermining government efforts to improve the quality of services for supported individuals, says a spokesperson for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents workers at Tamir.
The goal of “wage enhancements” for frontline workers is meant to bring greater stability to the sector. It was also the reason behind last year’s decision to earmark $180 million from the Ministry to increase the pay of employees at agencies like Tamir.
As the government acknowledged, the money would ultimately benefit the people who rely on developmental services, since better wages for workers would allow agencies to reduce staff turnover, attract and keep qualified employees, and increase continuity of care for vulnerable people.
Workers in developmental services are predominantly women, earning low wages in a sector that offers few full-time, secure jobs. Wages at Tamir are among the lowest for developmental service workers in the Ottawa area and, unlike many other similar agencies, Tamir doesn’t offer its employees a pension plan.
Yet to date, Tamir has failed to follow ministry guidelines for paying 114 employees the promised and fully funded pay increases and is resisting their attempts to join a pension plan.
“Basically, Tamir doesn’t want to give its workers wage enhancement money as wages,” said Dan Pike, national representative for CUPE.
“At various times, the agency has proposed making lump sum payments to workers, or using the wage enhancements for pay equity adjustments – anything but actually increase workers’ basic wages. And workers wouldn’t be able to join a pension plan until April 2016.”
Pike pointed out that Tamir’s approach runs counter to the government strategy for stabilizing developmental services in Ontario by improving the wages and working conditions of the people who provide the services.
“There’s a dual opportunity for Tamir here: it can support the government’s strategy for improving the quality and consistency of services for people with developmental disabilities; and address precarious work issues for its employees,” he said.
“Instead, the agency is trying to force workers to choose between better wages, a pension plan, and pay equity awards that redress gender discrimination against women workers.
“But Tamir’s frontline workers deserve what they were promised – wages and conditions that improve life for them and improve services for the people they support.”
For more information, please contact:
CUPE National Representative
CUPE Communications Representative