After nearly two years of bargaining, CUPE 2936.02 and 2936.03 members – all developmental service workers at Community Living Oshawa Clarington (CLOC) – voted to reject a tentative agreement.

Members entered negotiations focused on improving wages in line with other Community Living agencies; ending the practice of contracting out which sees outside workers command much higher pay; and removing barriers to career advancement that keep highly skilled and experienced workers in part-time roles. The tentative deal did little to address these concerns.

“Our workplace can’t keep staff and the reason is clear: management doesn’t appreciate the work we do,” said Angela Muir, a developmental service worker and unit chair. “Our executive director gave herself an 11 per cent raise over the last two years but offered us pennies while experienced workers can earn more in starting positions with other employers.”

Many workers have left in recent years, lured by other agencies that offer higher pay and full-time positions without requiring a developmental service worker (DSW) diploma. CLOC, in contrast, has struggled to recruit enough full-time workers but has policies that keep those with decades of experience, but without a DSW, precariously employed as part-timers.

“They’d rather bring in agency workers who aren’t trained to the house standards and who can’t administer medications, then give staff without a DSW the security of full-time work in jobs they’ve been doing for years,” said Dianna Daly, a developmental service worker and unit chair. “Part-time workers are working 80 hours a week and are being forced to stay to cover open shifts, but they have lower benefits and no consistency. This credentialism needs to end.”

The practice of disadvantaging workers without a DSW diploma is not common practice across the province. Other agencies recognize depth of experience as equivalent to a degree. “They are saying you can’t progress in your career even if you have decades of experience, unless you have a sheet of paper,” said Daly. “We have single mother’s working two or three jobs but with a proven track record here. When would they have time to go back to school? The agency is putting up roadblocks instead of strengthening our workforce.”

This rejection comes just weeks after a nearly unanimous strike vote. The bargaining units and employer will return to the table for conciliation on December 12.