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BURNABY - CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill has written to Minister of Children and Family Development Tom Christensen on behalf of CUPE’s 1,500 members in the community living sector asking him to take steps to properly fund community living services and to rein in Community Living British Columbia (CLBC).

O’Neill says that CLBC, the crown corporation that delivers support and services to people with developmental disabilities, has launched an attack on the structure and stability of the group-home model of residential care for adults with developmental disabilities.

“The Community Living Sector - advocacy groups, employers and workers - are collectively shocked and disturbed by the recent and apparently ill-considered attack by CLBC,” says O’Neill.

In his letter, O’Neill identifies elements of what he describes as a “three-pronged attack.”

First, CLBC selectively interviewing, via the “Residential Options Project”, only the 2,500 individuals residing in provincial group-homes, in order to ‘assist ’ them in ‘deciding’ to ‘choose’ a cheaper residential model. Noticeably, CLBC leaves out the 6,500 living in other residential models, some of whom may desire group home placements, nor the 3,000 individuals currently on service waitlists.

Second, CLBC applying to the Labour Relations Board for a declaratory opinion to have virtually all possible residential models declared to be within the definition of “family home provider” in the Community Services Labour Relations Act, one of the results being to convert employees into contractors - diminishing their compensation, working conditions and job stability.

Third, CLBC pressuring the Community Social Services Employers’ Association to submit a “Proposed Service Delivery Plan” to the Community Social Services Bargaining Association in which the astonishing undertaking is made to close no more than 100 of the province’s 680 group homes over the next several years. This proposal is offensive to many agencies that currently operate group homes.

O’Neill says that these actions contribute to the dysfunction of a sector in the midst of severe crises of both service availability and wait lists, and worker recruitment and retention. He adds that, “both crises are directly attributable to the cutbacks and underfunding of the sector implemented by the B.C. Liberal government over the last five years.”

“Following years of sacrifice and often painful budgetary adjustments, many in the sector hoped we had entered a new era of stability with the formation of CLBC and the signing of a four-year collective agreement last March 31st. An era in which accountable agencies, accredited at substantial cost, would provide developmentally disabled individuals with safe, reliable, high quality services in models staffed by trained, career employees,” says O’Neill.

Warning the minister that the actions of CLBC will severely jeopardize the possibility of improving the sector and services and threaten to exacerbate an already critical situation, O’Neill called upon the provincial government to take steps to ensure that CLBC ceases the irresponsible squandering of its mandate and commit the funding necessary to begin responsibly addressing the multiple and growing crises in this sector.

Information and background is available at RespectBC the Union Bargaining Association website and at CUPE’s Community Social Services Sector.