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On November 12, we released the results of a workload survey of Ontario Social Services Workers called “Overloaded and Underfire.” The survey was conducted by the Health and Safety Branch working with the Research Branch and found some disturbing trends among the 700 social services workers surveyed. 87% said that their workloads are ever increasing and 71% report experience with physical assaults, verbal abuse or threats of abuse. The survey also illustrated the increase in health problems as a result of workload. Higher stress levels, increased headaches and fatigue were all reported with 505 members reporting that their doctors have advised them these symptoms are work-related. The release created a great deal of media attention in Ontario. The hard data in the survey provides valuable ammunition as we prepare to take these concerns to the bargaining table. The survey was a prototype for similar surveys in other regions and sectors.

Asbestos in Alberta schools has once again become an issue. Members of Local 40 at the Calgary School Board are fighting for a proper asbestos management program after the employer refused to deal with it at the bargaining table. Recently, two CUPE members in Montreal died of asbestos exposure-related illness.