Bev Rumboldt hasn’t slept well since the strike at Community Living Port Colborne-Wainfleet began. With minimal communication from management about staffing issues, she’s anxious her daughter Brooklynne, who is 25, non-verbal, and has autism, isn’t getting the level attention she needs. “No parent wants to live with that worry or stress,” she says.

Brooklynne has had many support workers since moving into supportive housing in 2019, a symptom Rumboldt says of longstanding staffing problems at the agency. But both mother and daughter have come to trust the workers and to see them as a surrogate family.

With CUPE 2276 workers walking the picket line fighting for a deal that will end management’s policy that leaves them stuck on shift, families have been left in the dark about who is caring for their loved ones. Instead of recommitting to the bargaining process and a reasonable solution to meet workers’ and residents’ needs, management has made it clear they are in no rush to find a solution while untrained office workers supplement scab agency workers in caring for residents like Brooklynne.

“Who are the people going into my daughter’s apartment, helping with her medicine and bathing? Brooklynne has a comprehensive behavioural support plan. What training have they received? How can they understand everything she needs to feel safe and to function?” says Rumboldt, a registered nurse herself. “The energy they bring into the room, how they approach her and conduct themselves can be the difference between my daughter being calm or being a risk to herself and others.”

Rumboldt believes things have gotten worse during her daughter’s time with the agency but that it remains the best place for Brooklynne because of the dedication and care of the front-line developmental service workers.

“I love them. I love what they do for my daughter, and who they are as people. Not a lot of people could do this job. They’re there because they truly care,” says Rumboldt. “Recruitment and retention is vitally important in this organization. These residents need consistent staff and routines. But I’ve watched countless people come, get trained, build relationships, and leave. My message to management is simple: hold onto these workers.”