No one should go into work not knowing when they’ll be able to go home, but that’s the reality for more than 250 frontline developmental service workers with Community Living Algoma.

Today, CUPE 1880.01 delivered a letter signed by roughly 70 per cent of members, calling for an end to the unfair and unsafe practice of leaving workers stuck on shift. Nearly three-quarters of members have been forced to work overtime in recent months, with some being forced to stay multiple times a week for up to 16 hours.

Members are worried that they will be forced to stay at work during the holidays. The petition calls on the Board of Directors to intervene, help them reach a fair contract, and ensure that no worker misses time with their families because of a management-created workforce crisis.

“We go in for a ten-hour workday but if there’s no one there to relieve us, we can’t just go home, we’re responsible for the safety of the people in our care.  So, we stay,” explains one member who wished to remain anonymous to protect their working conditions. “We have kids or dependents who need care. We have lives. But management has created a staffing shortage that makes us sacrifice our lives and well-being.” 

The workforce crisis started several years ago as the agency began closing group homes and shifting people in their care to smaller apartments and houses in the community. This was an admirable change in focus that provided adults with disabilities more autonomy. But workers are now responsible for round the clock support at roughly 30 locations and the shift in model did not come with an investment in staff.

Instead of hiring enough workers to cover the locations, the agency has burned existing staff out and denied vacation requests to ensure adequate coverage.

Negotiations began in September. The employer categorically refused to implement any new language around forced overtime. They also refused the members’ reasonable wage proposals that would help attract and retain more staff, despite John Policicchio, the executive director, giving himself a 23.5 per cent raise in recent years. The two sides will return to the table in January.