TORONTO – Toronto developmental service staff — members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 2191 — have approved a new contract that mitigates the negative impacts of a proposed plan by Community Living Toronto (CLT) to restructure service delivery.
The restructuring plan was tabled by CLT in the form of bargaining proposals intended to gut collective protections for workers to make way for increased ‘flexibility’ in program delivery and staffing. In early June, CLT ended constructive negotiations and asked for a ‘no board’ report, a process that set the clock ticking to a lockout or strike.
“CUPE 2191 members showed immense courage in opposing a restructuring plan that would ultimately jeopardize the quality and the consistency of supports offered through the agency. They were prepared to defend services by defending their workplace rights.
“Community living workers are advocates for people who have developmental disabilities who deserve high quality and consistent services and supports, and for workplace stability for workers. The plan put forth by CLT would undermine services and create instability, says CUPE Ontario secretary-treasurer and immediate past-president of CUPE 2191 Fred Hahn.
Provincial underfunding for developmental services has resulted in severe gaps in services, low wages and heavy workloads for staff, says Hahn. An employer study found that the low wages and conditions of work result in high staff turnover rates.
“Already the agency has problems retaining experienced workers. And many workers already hold down two jobs to make ends meet. CLT has no evidence that increasing support and service flexibility will result in better quality services. Rather, the evidence says when workers are low-paid and do not have workplace stability, they are more apt to leave the field, ultimately affecting service quality.
“The CLT plan, as it was originally proposed, would fuel a cycle that CLT knows all too well. Staff will leave and this will cause further problems in maintaining consistent quality services. CLT has not been open with parents of families of individuals receiving services about the potential negative fallout of their restructuring,” says Hahn.
In addition to continuing to oppose CLT changes to services that may result in poorer quality services, CUPE 2191 will be working with 6,000 CUPE members in the developmental services sector to diminish the negative impacts of a planned ‘transformation’ of services by the provincial government.
From the limited information the province has issued on the ‘transformation,’ which includes more individualized funding mechanisms (where funding does not go to agencies but to individuals), “the changes coming are not in the best interests of individuals receiving supports or the workers delivering the services. We believe this plan will seriously undermine the agencies’ ability to sustain programs as more funding is siphoned off to purchase services through independent and alternative providers. For workers, this will result in increasing job instability and lower wages,” says Hahn.
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