Workers supporting people with disabilities at group homes in Milton and Halton Hills have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action.
“We’re not asking for the moon, the stars, and the sun, but everybody needs recognition in the form of a decent wage,” said Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Local 268 president Lori Hubley.
Community Living North Halton employees voted 99 per cent in favour of a strike following a June 27 union meeting.
The battle is over wages — roughly 265 developmental services workers are without a contract.
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The charity offers services for adults and children, serving between 400 to 450 clients across group homes in Milton, Georgetown, and Acton.
Hubley said the strike vote was her members’ reaction to an employer offer of zero wage increases and lump-sum payments as low as $75 over a two-year contract.
“What’s a casual (employee) making $19 an hour supposed to do with $75 over two years — go out for dinner?,” asked Hubley.
Many workers were surprised to see the employer’s offer when the agency is growing and buying new group homes, said Hubley.
Their collective agreement expired on March 31, 2016.
“I would say this employer has been very fair in the past, but seriously, you can’t say you care about your staff and then offer them nothing,” Hubley said.
But CLNH executive director Greg Edmiston sees things differently.
The employees involved “do some pretty important work and they work with some of the most vulnerable people in our community, so whatever we can give them, they deserve,” said Edmiston.
The largest part of the bargaining unit is made up of support workers who provide 24-hour care.
Edmiston says he’s “disappointed” with the way negotiations have been characterized.
“We’ve always done the best we can with our means,” said Edmiston, adding “it’s a tough environment in terms of being government-funded.”
CLNH is mainly funded by the province.
Some children’s services are covered by Halton Region, plus the charity receives United Way funding, in addition to holding its own fundraisers.
Edmiston says a conciliation officer was appointed on June 29 and they’re a long way from actually seeing employees picket.
“I’m still very confident we can get a deal,” Edmiston said.
CLNH has provided support to kids and adults with special needs in Milton and Halton Hills since 1955.
Photo courtesy of Community Living North Halton