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Staffing issues part of ongoing negotiations between CLEC and CUPE

Amherstburg Community Living

A funding crunch and a labour dispute could have an effect on how Community Living Essex County (CLEC) delivers services.

That is also part of ongoing labour negotiations with its union.

According to CLEC director of operations Corey Dalgleish, it might be time for some tough decisions when it comes to assisting the 700 individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families.

“We have to look at services we have and make some tough choices,” said Dalgleish.

He said that the main reason for some possible adjustments is that the Province of Ontario’s Ministry of Children and Community Services is locked in to a zero percent budget increase. That is why CLEC and other developmental services organizations across the province are banding together and urging the government to provide a five percent increase.

“This year’s budget has a zero percent increase. We don’t have any new funds. That is the tough reality we are faced with. We’ve got 50 homes we own or lease that we have to keep the heat on,” said Dalgleish.

In a press release from the CLEC, Executive Director Karen Bolger said that 83.5 percent of the organizations budget goes towards salaries and benefits. Local fundraising events like the annual Ruthven Apple Festival covers funding shortfalls.

“Our funding hasn’t kept up with our costs,” said Bolger through the release.

CLEC is urging members of the community to contact their local MPP’s and are part of a province-wide initiative aimed at the provincial government called #5tosurvive.

“We are incredibly appreciative for the support we get from the community,” said Dalgleish.

He said that community participate and respite programs are in jeopardy and noted that the CLEC homes are staffed 24-hours per day and an active transportation requires 68 vehicles.

“We are at the breaking point. We are screaming from the cliffs.”

Besides a lack of funding increase from the Ministry of Children and Community Services, CLEC is also facing what Dalgleish refers to as a “staff recruitment crisis.”

CUPE 3137 which represents about 600 frontline developmental service workers and administrative workers have been without a contract for almost a year and negotiations continue.

One of the major issues seems to be that part-time hours have increased to 36 hours per week and the fact that workers can get stuck at work.

Starting wage is just over $22 per hour and CLEC continues to recruit for more workers.

In a press release issued by CUPE late last month, Local 3137 President Paul Brennan said that the CLEC is down about 100 workers.

“People can leave and earn more with better hours, working jobs that don’t require the same level of training or responsibility.”

The press release also said that some developmental workers are working over 70 hours per week. There is a push back from the workers over forced overtime.

“Our employer seems to think that new hiring practices or Facebook ads will solve the crisis. But nothing is going to change until they commit to treating workers fairly,” added Brennan through the release.

The union’s press release also states “workers now regularly bring overnight bags every time they go in, just in case. CLEC is not unique – workers in Port Colborne staged a nearly month-long strike to secure automatic overtime – but instances at the agency have been increasing at alarming rates. Family members of clients have even raised the issue, rightfully concerned that overburdened workers are being asked to do too much with too little.”

Community Living Essex County is the largest non-profit organization employer in the county.

By Fred Groves



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