Oakville – In light of their employer’s refusal to negotiate seriously, the bargaining team for 340 employees with Central West Specialized Developmental Services (CWSDS) has asked the Ministry of Labour for a “no board” report. Once the ministry issues the report, a legal strike or lockout may take place on the 17th calendar day following.
The two sides have been negotiating since the previous collective agreement expired on March 31. An initial offer of 10 cents an hour in each of two years was soundly rejected by 91 per cent of union members. The two sides met with a government-appointed conciliator on August 8, but no progress was made. However, both sides have agreed to mediation before the possible strike or lockout date.
“We’re dedicated professionals committed to providing caring, quality services to our clients,” said Sue Walker, president of OPSEU Local 249. “One of our top priorities is ensuring our services foster the inclusion and dignity that adults with developmental disabilities have a right to. However, the employer doesn’t think we deserve the same kind of dignity – not when they’re offering us dimes.”
CWSDS staff provide residential services in group homes across Oakville, Burlington, Mississauga, Halton Hills, and Georgetown. They also provide a range of treatment services, including counselling, nursing, speech-language pathology, behaviour therapy, and psychology services.
Walker noted that low wages and the physically exhausting – and sometimes dangerous – nature of their work mean a high rate of staff turnover at CWSDS.
“We love what we do,” said Walker, “and we want to keep doing it. But there are 30 vacancies right now. That means the rest of us have to take on the work of 30 employees. We’re at the end of our rope. The employer must make working at CWSDS more attractive to the people who will do the best job possible and be the most invested in their work and our clients.”
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU, noted that the provincial government has recently agreed to contracts with a number of large public sector bargaining units, and that CWSDS workers expect the same kind of fairness.
“I clearly recall the disruptions of 2007 caused by a series of strikes in developmental services,” he said. “At the time, this same Liberal government promised to stabilize the sector. OPSEU firmly believes that a fair deal, comparable to the deals offered to the bigger players, is the only way to bring the stability that developmental services workers deserve – and that their clients need.
For more information: Sue Walker, 289-260-5915