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Agencies use educational stipends to reduce developmental services contract value

We the North
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The Ministry of Community and Social Services has advised Ontario’s developmental services agencies that it is committed to funding educational stipends for workers. This promise has been subverted by some agencies that want such stipends to replace the pattern of lump sum payments in contract bargaining. The recent bargaining pattern has included two years of lump sum payments, followed by two years of wage increases.

Some agencies are threatening workers with layoffs in an attempt to force them to accept the educational stipend in lieu of a larger lump sum amount. “The threat of layoffs by developmental services agencies is being used as a scare tactic,” said OPSEU President, Smokey Thomas. “These workers belong to OPSEU, and this union will not be intimidated into believing our members have to settle for unfair contracts.”

The Developmental Services sector is critically underfunded and workers are already struggling with notoriously low wages. The sector has an increasing number of part-time and contract workers, many of whom belong to equity groups such as young, racialized and women workers. This can make them vulnerable to employer scare tactics.

“We will not fall for fear-mongering by these employers,” said OPSEU Developmental Services Sector Executive Chair, Sue Walker. “Our members have already negotiated many reasonable deals across the province.”

“Employers are using this as an opportunity to threaten workers at the bargaining table. Possible layoffs are not what we should be afraid of,” said Sue Walker. “All of the layoffs at Community Living London have been recalled. We all know that one year of an educational stipend is not a long-term investment in workers. We deserve a contract that ensures a living wage.”