CUPE National President Mark Hancock and MPP Jeff Burch with striking workers

Developmental service workers represented by CUPE 2276 and Community Living Port Colborne-Wainfleet (CLPCW) have ratified a new two-year collective agreement.

The tentative deal, reached last Thursday, ended the three-week long strike. All but five members of the nearly 100-worker-strong bargaining unit cast a ballot, a testament to the organizing efforts of the local and the deep commitment of this group to shaping their own future; more than 85 per cent voted “yes” to accept the new deal.

“If you give workers a voice, we’ll use it and that was our goal the entire time. We want a say in solving the problems in our workplace,” said CUPE 2276 Vice President Cassie Bisson. “My coworkers showed up day in and day out, through rain and storms, to fight for better jobs and better services and I am proud that our bargaining team was able to bring back a deal that so many found acceptable and will make a real difference in the lives of workers and residents.”

A central issue in the strike was Community Living’s inability to adequately staff shifts leaving many workers trapped at work for hours or sometimes even days. Being “stuck on shift” is common across the sector – but members took issue with the casual reliance on a practice that upended their lives, the increasing frequency of its use, and the fact that other Niagara-area agencies have higher rates of pay for stuck shifts. Chris Judge has been at CLPCW for 15 years; he was only stuck on shift a handful of times in his first dozen years but since the start of the staffing crisis it’s happening twice a month.

“We now have language to protect workers against stuck shifts and to ensure workers are paid more fairly in the event that they do have to stay on,” said Bisson. “This will mean a better quality of life for workers and better care for residents who no longer have to rely on fatigued workers pulling doubles or triples.”

The bargaining team was also able to negotiate a 4.5 per cent raise for all workers over the lifetime of the contract, helping alleviate cost-of-living challenges caused by inflation. Workers began returning on Tuesday with all normal shifts resuming Wednesday.

“We are happy to be back at work. We’re like family for many of our residents and we want to be there for them,” said Bisson. “My coworkers and I got into this field because we want to provide the best care possible. This deal will help us do that.”