Developmental service workers in Ontario have decided they’d rather walk picket lines then be stuck on shift for days on end.

After more than a year of bargaining between the roughly 100 members in CUPE 2276 and Community Living Port Colborne-Wainfleet (CLPCW), talks broke down on Wednesday. There was only one main issue outstanding, yet management refused to address the workers’ concerns and as of 12:01 a.m. Friday, workers will be on strike.

“We call it being ‘stuck on shift.’ What it really means is you never know when you will be able to go home. You go in for an eight-hour day but if no one is there to relieve you and look after the people in your care, you can’t go home. You can be stuck there for hours and at times days,” explains Liz Reed, CUPE 2276 President. “We can have kids waiting to be picked up or parents who need care. But our employer refuses to make the investments needed to ensure our unionized front line staff can work a reasonable schedule or guarantee that those who are forced to stay are compensated fairly.”

This disregard for the needs or rights of workers fits a disconcerting pattern at CLPCW. Joanna Mataya was appointed CEO in 2021. In a typical year before Mataya’s hiring, CLPCW would have roughly 15 grievances. In 2022, there were 60. Most of those grievances – more than 90% – were settled in the workers favour by an impartial third-party arbitrator.

“We don’t want to be on strike. We want to be working with the people who need us. But we can’t go on like this,” explains Reed. “We’ve dedicated our careers to this field – but we can’t be asked to sacrifice our lives and the lives of our families for an employer who’s shown us nothing but disrespect. We hope the people we support, their families, and community members will join us in demanding better from CLPCW.”

Workers will be holding pickets at 545 Northland Ave (the corner of Northland Avenue and West Side Road) and 750 Fielden Ave (at Highway 3) between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.