Exeter Programs and supports for people with developmental disabilities and their families in South Huron are woefully underfunded, and both community living workers and clients are paying the price, say front line counsellors with Community Living South Huron.
Community Living South Huron provides residential and vocational support for people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Chronic provincial underfunding for services has led to long waiting lists, understaffing, heavy workloads and low wages in the sector. Last year, the provincial Liberal government only provided a .5 % funding increase to developmental services.
An employer-commissioned study of the sector concluded that community living front line staff earn 25 per cent less than other social service workers in comparable jobs. The low wages also adversely impact staff retention.
Because of the low wages and demanding stressful work, many staff resign. This means agencies deal with high staff turnover rates and a lack of continuity of care that puts both clients and workers at risk. Our first concern is for our clients. We believe that, if the agency paid higher wages, more staff would stay and the quality of programs and supports for clients would improve, says Barbara Dunlop spokesperson, CUPE 2597, the union representing agency staff.
CUPE 2597 is now in new contract negotiations with the South Huron agency. But the years of provincial underfunding for programs and supports for the developmentally disabled and their families are putting a strain on contract negotiations.
Other community living agency administrations across the province have provided modest wage increases to their workers, despite the provincial underfunding. Unlike our agency administration, they recognize that front line workers shouldnt be shouldering the burden of provincial underfunding through low wages and high workload.
Our first concern is for our clients. We want to negotiate a fair contract. We believe that a settlement is possible if the agency treated its employees fairly and with respect, says Dunlop.
CUPE 2597 members have voted to support strike action should a fair settlement not be reached.
For more information, please contact:
Barbara Dunlop, Chair, CUPE 2597 Bargaining Committee (519) 234-6149
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications (416) 578-8774