Frontline staff at Central West Specialized Developmental Services (CWSDS) held an information picket on July 17 to support their bargaining team – and they sent a strong message to management: a dime an hour isn't good enough.
Wearing "Up Your Offer" buttons and stickers, about 100 OPSEU Local 249 members and their families picketed the CWSDS head office in Oakville. They were joined by OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida and Region 2 Executive Board Member Erin Thorson, as well as members from neighbouring OPSEU locals.
CWSDS staff care for people with extreme developmental disabilities in Oakville, Burlington, Halton, Dufferin and Peel regions. They describe their work as highly specialized and very rewarding, but also physically and mentally demanding – and sometimes dangerous.
In May, frontline staff rejected a tentative agreement that featured a 10-cents-an-hour wage increase, handing the union a 91 per cent strike mandate.
In his address to picketers, Almeida called management's offer of a dime an hour "shameful."
"I know you folks do this because you love it," he said. "I know it's not about the money, and that's okay. But in the end, you can't do this work if you're not paid a decent wage. It's high time this employer came to the table with a serious offer – one that respects the highly-skilled and compassionate work you perform."
Almeida also noted that CWSDS has found money to hire more managers recently, while Sunshine List Executive Director James Duncan took home three per cent more pay in 2016. "If they took some of that money and passed it down to where the real work is done, maybe we could get a contract," he said to cheers from the picketers.
CWSDS management claim that high overtime costs prevent them from offering higher wages. OPSEU argues that those overtime costs are due to a cycle of poor management at CWSDS, where more than 30 vacant frontline positions force staff to work double shifts. Meanwhile, their bloated team of HR managers focuses more on punitive and heavy-handed management instead of recruiting people to fill the vacant positions.
The union has filed for conciliation, and their next date at the bargaining table is August 8.