What comes next?

Your bargaining team is actively trying to get back to the bargaining table. We expect to resume negotiations, with a much stronger hand, in early March. We will have more updates for you before then, including actions every member can take to help secure the deal with need and deserve.

Please get in touch with your steward or through email if you want to play a more active role.

Developmental service workers say enough is enough, delivering near unanimous strike vote

Morale is plummeting, and workers are being chased from Community Living Upper Ottawa Valley (CLUOV) – but for six hours on Tuesday afternoon, frontline developmental service workers paraded through an office in high spirits. With 68 workers casting ballots, 97 per cent voted in favour of a strike if nothing changes at the bargaining table.

“Our jobs are incredibly challenging, exhausting, and too often thankless. We’re frustrated and burnt out. We’re losing workers to other agencies or to sick leave at record numbers. But now my coworkers are energized and excited because we are standing tall and fighting for what we deserve,” explained Emily Lassard, a developmental service worker with 13 years of experience and President of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 5088. “We need something to change. The people we support deserve better. And this show of solidarity should serve as a wakeup call to our employer.”

CUPE 5088’s roughly 130 members have been working without a contract for almost two years. In that time, CLUOV has hired – and lost – roughly 300 workers, a symptom of gross mismanagement and retention problems that have longed plagued the agency.

Workers have been increasingly put in compromising situations in recent years as individuals are forced to do the jobs of three or even four people. This chronic understaffing doesn’t only create health and safety challenges, it means that adults with developmental disabilities aren’t getting the care they deserve. Without enough workers to facilitate community visits, people miss church, shopping trips, and regular outings, grossly impacting their quality of life.

CUPE 5088 members support 150 adults living with disabilities in Pembroke, Petawawa, Eganville, Deep River and throughout the Upper Ottawa Valley. These workers ensure some of the community’s most overlooked have the support they need to live rich, full lives, helping with everything from shopping and cleaning to developing social skills and promoting independence. The bargaining committee’s proposals were developed with input from the workers and would help address longstanding challenges at CLUOV, ensuring adults get the support they need.

“This was a dream job not that long ago. You could support a family and do a job that you’re proud of and that you’re safe doing. That’s not the case anymore. We can’t afford to keep these jobs. We can’t keep ourselves safe while doing them. And we can’t put up with our employer’s disrespect anymore,” said Lessard. “We had around 23 grievances last year. That’s a 500 per cent increase from the previous year because management is trying to unilaterally reinterpret our collective agreement. Our employer thinks they can push, bully, and intimidate us until we comply. We don’t want to go on strike, we want to be supporting the people who depend on us. But we can’t go on like this and we’re not going to fall in line anymore.”

Developmental service workers in Eastern Ontario demand fair deal after 21 months without a contract

Developmental service work is meaningful and essential – but it can also be dangerous. Guidelines ensuring adequate staffing ratios and proper safety plans are meant to mitigate that risk, but frontline developmental service workers with Community Living Upper Ottawa Valley, CLUOV, in Eastern Ontario say those protections are being routinely ignored.

In the face of those challenges and more than 21 months into bargaining, CUPE 5088 delivered a petition signed by roughly 70% of members calling for a fair deal that keeps workers safe and improves services.

“There’s a level of risk involved in our jobs. We all knew that coming into the field. But we expect our employer to take our health and safety seriously and to do everything in their power to protect us as we support adults with developmental disabilities,” explains one member who wished to remain anonymous to protect their working conditions. “But that’s not happening at the agency. Our safety is routinely compromised as management cuts corners.”

CLUOV has seen an exodus of staff in recent years with workers taking jobs at better paying agencies or leaving the field entirely, chased out by burnout, stress, and low pay. Those who remain have been forced to work short staffed, often in one-on-one situations that would typically require two or three staff to adequately and safely manage a client with behavioral challenges.

Management decisions have not only depressed wages and impacted worker safety, they’re undercutting the quality of care clients receive. The revolving door of staff means that clients who struggle with change are being forced to adjust to new workers constantly while programs and outings are being cancelled because there aren’t enough staff to facilitate them. The result is that adults with developmental disabilities who should be out in the community and socializing with people they know and trust are spending more time alone, inside, cut off from their world.

The roughly 140 members of CUPE 5088 have been working without a contract for nearly two years. Their bargaining representatives entered into negotiations with proposals focused on improving recruitment and retention, elevating the quality of care clients receive, and ensuring workers are safe. Instead of offering a fair deal at a time of skyrocketing cost of living, though, management is proposing a stipend that would put workers further behind inflation while also attempting to add steps to the wage grid that would keep workers lower paid for longer.

CUPE 5088 members are hopeful to reach a fair deal when their bargaining representatives return to the table in the coming weeks.