(Thunder Bay) – Workers who provide care and support for people with developmental disabilities say unstable conditions in the sector must change, and employers have an opportunity to make that happen in discussions this week with unions in the sector.
OPSEU members have planned actions in towns and cities across Ontario to show employers they are watching developments closely and expect significant changes to show up in a provincial framework agreement that local unions can adopt.
In Thunder Bay, OPSEU Locals 738 (Avenue II Community Program Services) and 740 (Community Living Thunder Bay) will hold an information picket at 2 pm, Friday, Dec. 12, Monty Parks Centre, 450 Fort William Rd.
“Employers can’t recruit or retain skilled, professional workers because of the low pay and unstable hours they offer. They’ve addressed this in their own survey of employers across Ontario. They’re even turning to high school volunteers, who are hardly equipped to care for and support people with autism, fetal alcohol syndrome and other intellectual disabilities,” said Patti Markland, chair of OPSEU developmental services.
More than two-thirds of developmental services workers are part-time, temporary, or on contract. Many of them earn less than $14 an hour.
“No matter how much they love their jobs, they can’t stay if they can’t make ends meet,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Our union has been in the forefront of the push for stable earnings for the workers and stable services for the people they support and their families. High staff turnover is bad for workers, bad for the people they support, and ultimately bad for employers because constant recruitment and training are costly.”
OPSEU represents some 12,000 DS workers, many of whom have planned actions this week to make it clear to employers they expect significant improvements as a result of talks taking place this week with employers.
The provincial talks resulted from earlier discussions facilitated by the Ministry of Community and Social Services, which is responsible for developmental services. The Ontario government has allocated $200 million for frontline workers over the next three years.
Talks are scheduled for Dec. 11 and 12.
Erin Rice, OPSEU Developmental Services, 807.627.8709
Sheila Keenan: OPSEU Communications and Campaigns, 416.802.1251, firstname.lastname@example.org