Community Living Association workers demand immediate intervention in dangerous work environment

Ontario Public Service Employees Union flag

Alliston, ON – Developmental Services workers at Community Living Association of South Simcoe (CLASS) are calling for their employer to take action immediately in the wake of numerous incidents of workplace violence in the past year. 

The OPSEU/SEFPO Local 332 members have reported multiple threats to their personal safety to their employer. The workers have been experiencing physical and verbal assaults while supporting individuals in the community living facility, following an increase in individuals with psychiatric and substance use issues being served by CLASS.

“Enough is enough. We are not equipped or trained to house clients with psychiatric and substance use issues and the facilities in Community Living settings are not designed for individuals who have a history of violence,” says Allan May, President of OPSEU/SEFPO Local 332. “Our members cannot provide adequate support for these individuals and our employer needs to immediately protect the safety of CLASS workers.”

CLASS receives funding from the Ministry of Children and Social Services (MCCSS) to support individuals with developmental disabilities. The workers at CLASS assist clients in their daily living activities and support them in participating in the community, through social and community activities, employment and volunteer opportunities, and the like, to enhance independence and increase quality of life.

Incidents of workplace violence have resulted in concussions, stitches, broken bones, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Police have been called in numerous times in the past year to respond to violent incidents in the group homes. CLASS has provided staff with protective gear as a result; however, this has not prevented further incidents from occurring as the community living environment and staff training are not conducive to supporting the needs of higher-risk clients.

OPSEU/SEFPO President JP Hornick emphasized that CLASS has a responsibility to protect workers under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), which CLASS leadership must consider before accepting the additional funding it receives to take on higher-risk clients.

“The employees at CLASS care deeply about the clients they support and want to see them live fulfilling, successful lives, but that service should never be at the expense of their own lives,” said Hornick. “It is unacceptable that CLASS has not adhered to their mandate to protect staff from danger and is allowing violent incidents to continue. They have failed their employees and they must intervene immediately.”