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Developmental Services workers to picket Minister Meilleur’s office as employer cancels discussions

We the North
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(Toronto) – Two weeks before the Ontario elections, OPSEU Developmental Services workers are taking their message to the doorstep of Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community and Social Services.

What: Developmental Services information picket
When: Friday, September 23, 2011, 10:00 a.m.
Where: Minister Meilleur's campaign office 355 Montreal Road, Ottawa

Developmental Services are drastically under funded, with waitlists prohibiting access to core services for thousands of Ontario's most vulnerable citizens. People with disabilities often only receive services once they reach a point of crisis. Adequate funding and access for quality developmental services have been key issues in discussions with the Ministry and employers.

"The potential for widespread labour unrest in this sector is very real. It is also regrettable considering employers have had ample opportunity to achieve settlements," said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

"With discussion tables falling apart, we are now completely dependent on what happens at individual tables," said Thomas. "Two of our units are heading for a potential strike on Saturday. Five others have also taken strike votes."

Three hundred workers in Thunder Bay could be on strike as soon as Saturday, September 24. To date, 41 OPSEU units have filed for conciliation, and seven have taken strike votes.

OPSEU met with a mediator and representatives of employer groups in an effort to get back to Developmental Services Provincial Discussion Tables (DSPDTs) on September 15. The employer groups cancelled the DSPDTs at the last minute without any explanation or warning.

"We believe a settlement could have been reached if a union-specific settlement was negotiated," said Thomas. "It now looks like the only choice will be to go to conciliation with the Ministry. We entered negotiations in good faith, and are deeply disappointed in this employer." Employer groups are mandated to conduct negotiations that include both non-union and union employees. By linking unionized employees to the terms of Bill 16, applicable only to non-union workers, all workers would have become subject to an unacceptable two-year wage-freeze.

Ontario's developmental services workers provide support such as residential care, counseling and case management to people with developmental disabilities.