OPSEU/SEFPO and CUPE launch developmental service worker campaign

Toronto, ON – Representing 20,500 developmental service workers, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/SEFPO) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE Ontario) have launched a joint campaign calling on the Ford government to live up to their promises to workers and Ontarians by investing in this beleaguered sector.

There are more than 70,000 adults living with a wide range of developmental disabilities across the province. Government and ombudsmen reports have acknowledged a crisis in the sector for a decade with little change. The campaign – It’s Life Changing Work – aims to address the primary challenges facing workers and families, including ensuring high quality care, improving staff retention rates, ending the overreliance on casual time workers, and addressing increasing rates of workplace violence.

“These workers are nurses one minute, life coaches the next. They’re therapists, counsellors, family support workers, book keepers, financial planners and more,” said Fred Hahn, a developmental service worker and CUPE Ontario President. “They fill in the blanks, giving people whatever support they need. But they’ve been invisible for too long. That’s why we launched this campaign.”

Marking the first day of Developmental Service Workers Appreciation Week, OPSEU/SEFPO and CUPE members attempted to meet with MPP Michael Parsa, Minister of Children, Community, and Social Services. The Minister refused to meet

“We have the resources to ensure that everyone in this province, no matter their abilities or challenges, can live fulfilling lives. Minister Parsa’s refusal to even talk with these frontline workers is a perfect example of the missing political will,” said JP Hornick, OPSEU/SEFPO President. “We will continue to build solidarity in the fight for stronger Developmental Services – so that workers, and the people who depend on their services, are treated with respect and dignity.”

The fight for proper funding and supports for Developmental Service workers will continue following today’s launch with community block walks in multiple communities around Ontario.

Quick Facts

  • From 2013 to 2021, agencies across the province lost 46,000 staffing hours per week, 445 full time positions, and 30 programs.
  • In May, Ontario’s Court of Appeal restored a class action lawsuit alleging provincial negligence and harm as people with developmental disabilities languish on waitlists for support programs.
  • Ongoing staffing challenges plague the sector, driven by low wages, limited benefits, insufficient career growth, and public stigma around the industry.
  • According to a province-wide study conducted by CAMH, one-in-three developmental service workers report moderate to severe distress from the pressure of their jobs.

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