TORONTO - Front line workers with Community Living Toronto (CLT) — who provide services and supports for individuals who have a developmental disability — voted this week to defend quality services for clients and to reject an employer contract offer attacking their workplace rights.
The vote came after CLT abruptly ended contract negotiations with Local 2191 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) on June 1 and applied to the Ontario Labour Board for a ‘no board’ report, a process that triggers a countdown to a lock out or a strike.
“We believe CLT made the wrong decision to trigger labour instability and to move toward a disruption of services for vulnerable people. We want to reassure the parents and families of the individuals we support, that unlike the CLT management, our goal is to reach a fair negotiated settlement and avoid turmoil,” said Fred Hahn, the president of CUPE 2191 and the newly elected secretary-treasurer of CUPE in Ontario.
CLT has tabled bargaining proposals that focus on increased “flexibility” in staffing and that target collective agreement protections such as hours of work, work location, and recognition of workers’ specialized skills.
This “flexibility” would “negatively impact both clients and workers,” says Hahn. “Under the employer’s scheme, workers would have no workplace stability, their family lives would be disrupted and their ability to schedule educational upgrading and shifts for other jobs would be severely hampered. The proposals would also adversely affect continuity of care for clients as workers are shifted from one work location to another. “
An employer study found that developmental service workers earn 25 per cent less than comparable social service occupations. The study also indicated that low wages and heavy workloads impede experienced workers from staying in the field and are a barrier to students choosing developmental services as an occupation. Lower wages also means many workers maintain more than one job, including 70 per cent of the members of CUPE 2191. As a result, agencies struggle with high staff turnover rates and developmental services college programs have closed because of low student enrolment.
In the past year, more than 40 CUPE local unions have reached fair negotiated settlements with their employers and are now lobbying together to push the province to increase funding that is directly tied to workers’ wages and staff training and retention.
“Other community living employers are choosing to fight provincial under-funding for the sector, not their workers. We care deeply for the people we support and their families. Protecting our hard-won contract rights is directly tied to the quality of services and supports we can provide clients and families. Attacking our working conditions is a direct attack on services and supports,” says Hahn.
CUPE represents 7,000 developmental service workers in Ontario. Eleven hundred of them are members of CUPE 2191 who provide residential, vocational, and behavioral counselling supports to over 5,000 individuals accessing services through Community Living Toronto.
Parents and family members of individuals receiving supports are being encouraged to attend an urgent information meeting on Monday, June 19 (6:30 p.m. to 8: 30 p.m.) at the Rosedale Heights School of Arts, 711 Bloor Street East.
For more information please contact:
Secretary-Treasurer, CUPE Ontario