Staff at the Society for Treatment of Autism voted 99 percent in favour of possible strike action on Monday.

The Residential Care Workers look after adults and children with Autism living in group homes in Sydney, North Sydney, and Sydney Mines. They are funded by the Department of Community Services and represented by CUPE 4172. CUPE National Representative Tammy Martin says in addition to supporting the wage demands at the lead table, the workers are willing to hit the street over local issues. “A key issue for these workers is that government won’t pay them for the after-hours time they spend with clients when bringing them to appointments in Halifax,” says Martin. “They are only paid for 16 hours, while the trip may take two and a half days. They feel taken advantage of.” Martin says the employees’ last contract expired in March of 2021 and they have not seen a wage increase since that time.

Darren Bartlett, president of CUPE 4172 says the employees care deeply for their clients but they can’t continue to work this hard without fair wages and benefits. “Our jobs are physical and demanding,” says Bartlett. “We look after personal hygiene, cleaning, meals and snacks, perform health checks and administer medical treatments, including insulin injections and changing colostomy bags. We manage high behaviours, receive and order medications, manage tube feedings. It’s a lot for $20.33 an hour.”