In the attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19 the Government of Ontario recently introduced restrictions to limit the number of agencies that frontline workers can be actively employed in; however, the government’s actions made workers in developmental services fall through the cracks. The workers, who support people with disabilities, report significant cut to hours due to new rules, and the government and employers have not stepped up to increase full-time positions.

“Due to the precarious, underpaid nature of work in developmental services, workers rely on shifts from multiple agencies in order to get by. New restrictions force them to choose a sole employer and it’s causing a massive reduction in their hours and take-home pay,” says Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam, CUPE Social Services Chair. “Workers in developmental services who take on multiple, precarious, often low-paying jobs are slipping through the cracks of Ford’s COVID-19 recovery plan. Employers and government must ensure that workers are able to secure enough hours to put food on the table and pay their bills.”

CUPE Ontario calls for improved funding to the sector to increase full-time job opportunities, enhance the sector’s widespread wage crisis, and for improved health and safety protocols, including adequate PPE.

“There are few full-time job opportunities in the sector and employers’ reliance on a part-time, precarious, and low-paid workforce is impacting the quality of care that people with disabilities so rightfully deserve,” says Russ Harris, President of CUPE Local 3826. “Workers in developmental services and people with disabilities continue to be ignored by the Ford government.”

Longstanding underfunding to developmental services and annual cutbacks coupled with the pandemic has exposed systemic vulnerabilities in the sector, says CUPE Ontario.

“We feel forgotten by Ford,” says Wendy Bonneville, CUPE Local 2605 President. “Some of us have seen our hours slashed in half over the course of the pandemic, yet the need for workers in developmental services has increased due to new COVID-19 health and safety protocols. If the Ford government cared about people with disabilities, he’d introduce emergency funding and a long-term funding plan to help support workers and the people they support in developmental services.”