Clients and workers at a tableAfter a two-month-long fight by families, workers, and allies, Community Living Guelph Wellington’s day program and EmployMEnt Options have closed not with a bang, but with a whimper.

CLGW’s September announcement that they were facing a $3 million deficit led many to hope for a last-minute government intervention. Local MPPs met with parents and committed to working to save services. And more than 500 letters of support were sent to the Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services making clear what these programs mean to the community.

Despite this groundswell of public support, there was no last-minute government funding. Services closed on Friday without a word from Minister Michael Parsa and no commitment to reopen the programs in their current state with the same levels of support by the agency.

“We held out hope that something could be done for the people we support and the workers. This government has underfunded our sector for years and now 100 adults with disabilities will be further cut off from the community and more than 60 developmental service workers facing job disruptions right before the holidays,” said Sandra MacDonald, CUPE 4392 President representing more than 450 workers at CLGW. “We do this work because we believe in supporting people with developmental disabilities and we are going to keep lobbying Community Living and the government to reopen these programs that bring such joy and life to the people we serve.”

CUPE members and parents met with MPPs to plead for funding; parents also submitted passionate letters to the editor explaining the crisis they will be in without services. Those families are now scrambling to find alternatives, with many of them working or too elderly to care for their adult children whose routines and socialization have now been disrupted.

“It’s an absolute travesty that the Ministry isn’t doing more to keep these services open,” said MPP Mike Schreiner. “I met with many of these same families in 2020 when the agency tried to close the programs then. We fought back and won. I met with them again this time and did everything I could to keep these programs open, serving our community. Ultimately this is about the provincial government’s priorities, and I will keep pushing the Ministry to invest in developmental services in Guelph.”

The September announcement came after a year of bargaining between CUPE 4392 and CLGW. The two sides remain far apart on benefits and wages, with these workers earning less than counterparts at other local agencies and working with completely inadequate benefits. They will return to the negotiating table in 2024.

“Parents and families know that developmental service workers will keep fighting for the programs they depend on,” said MacDonald. “And I believe our entire community will come out to support workers to get the fair deal we deserve.”