TORONTO – Ontarios welfare workers have been subjected to overwork, intimidation, and abuse since the province introduced its Ontario Works program two years ago, says a study released today at a news conference in Toronto. The study was done by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents 5,000 welfare workers in Ontario. It is based on a survey of 480 welfare workers from across the province.
Increased workloads were reported by 87 per cent of the survey respondents. The study found that workers are being pressured to skip lunches and breaks and work unpaid overtime to get the job done, said the reports author, researcher Anne McGrath. More than half the workers said they work over 150 minutes of unpaid overtime a week. Respondents reported being intimidated and bullied by supervisors.
The study shows that welfare work has become more stressful. Ontario Works doesnt work for the people who have to deliver it – welfare workers in Ontario, said front-line welfare worker Helen Gavel, We now have workfare and drug testing. Workers are frustrated because they are being told to deliver an untenable program. Welfare offices are going to lose many excellent, experienced workers unless working conditions improve.
CUPE is urging the government to introduce legislation to address overwork and to abandon workfare and drug testing. We now have more evidence that front-line welfare workers are being bullied and overworked, said Brian OKeefe, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Ontario. We told the government that Ontario Works was a flawed program. We warned the government about the stress it would create for workers and for recipients. We urge the government to implement CUPEs recommendations as soon as possible.
Shannon McManus at 416-292-3999 or 416-766-3252.