Members at CUPE 4392 have voted 90.5 per cent in favour of going on strike.

“Our decision to explore the possibility strike action is informed by robust consultation with CUPE 4392 members who report feeling dehumanized by the current working conditions at Community Living Guelph Wellington” says Joanne Smithers, President of CUPE 4392. “Our members are terrified about catching COVID-19 while at work—because our employer doesn’t pay into WSIB, members could be off for weeks without pay if they contracted the virus.”

More than two thirds of the employees at Community Living Guelph Wellington are limited to part-time hours, a frequent situation faced by many in the developmental services sector. Only a handful of employees have access to full-time hours, decent health and dental benefits, or adequate paid sick leave. The employer has not tabled any proposals to address long-standing, systemic issues and has instead proposed to overhaul the current scheduling system that could result in layoffs, reports the union. Layoffs could impact members with more than 20 years seniority at Community Living Guelph Wellington.

“Our members have made tremendous sacrifices throughout the pandemic—we’re just trying to preserve and improve the current collective agreement we have. Our members often earn low-wages and can’t afford to lose any more hours,” continued Smithers.

The Ford government’s emergency orders specify that direct support professionals cannot work for more than one agency due to risk of COVID-19 transmission, which has significantly reduced hours and weekly income of many workers in developmental services who rely on multiple, part-time jobs in order to get by.

While the bargaining committee now has authorization from the local’s membership to commence strike action, the union remains hopeful that outstanding issues will be able to be addressed in negotiations without the necessity for job action.