After a year of bargaining, and right as workers have begun building momentum towards a fair and necessary deal, Community Living Guelph Wellington, CLGW, has cried poverty and announced closures and layoffs that will hurt workers, people supported, and families.
The more than 450 frontline developmental service workers represented by CUPE 4392 support people with intellectual and physical disabilities. They have been bargaining since October 2022 to rectify years of chronically low wages, improve benefits to ensure worker well-being, and secure sick leave for part time workers. Workers are constantly being forced to stay at work which is a direct result of not being able to attract and retain a skilled workforce.
Instead of offering the necessary improvements that would secure their workforce, CLGW has announced the December 4, 2023, suspension of the EmployMEnt Options and Day Services, closures that will affect over 100 people supported and their families and result in layoffs. This will be a life-changing disruption right before Christmas. The announcement came in a memo that shared the agency is in a $3,000,000 deficit.
“We’ve asked to see the agencies books, but they haven’t opened them up to us as of yet,” said Sandra MacDonald, CUPE 4392 President. “They’re laying the blame for the deficit on workers’ wages and benefits, but that is simply not true. We are paid less than counterparts at other Community Living agencies where they are offering modest raises. We have been understaffed and overworked for many years and now they’re cutting services people and families depend on.”
Day Program closures were previously announced in October 2020. Following a public pressure campaign by families and workers, the agency was forced to reopen the programs but did so in a way that left out many people who previously participated. Cindy Kinnon, current executive director, previously oversaw the financial ruin of another agency, Catholic Family Services Hamilton, which subsequently closed following her tenure. From 2021, when she joined CLGW, to 2022, Kinnon received an 11.5% raise, bringing her salary to more than $162,000 a year.
“How is that size of a raise justified at the same time as she is taking life-changing supports from people?” said MacDonald. “We fought for these services before. If our employer refuses to do the right thing, we’ll fight again. Because we know how important they are for the people we serve, their families, and our communities.”