Shuswap Association For Community Living day programs could come to a grinding halt.
With the threat of a province-wide strike looking more like an eventuality, the organization that creates opportunities and provides support to individuals with intellectual disabilities has negotiated an essential services agreement with CUPE and the Community Social Services Employers Association.
SACL executive director Jo-Anne Crawford says the strike will close day programs at the Salmon River Road site. Those employed in community jobs will continue to receive limited support from management staff so they are able to retain their jobs, and some of the individuals who have one-on-one support contracts will also continue to receive some staff support.
But only those whose living situations are vulnerable will get SACL support.
“It’s only some of them, not all of them,” she says.
Crawford says SACL has negotiated as much service for their clients as possible, comparing this to school strikes where parents and caregivers are left having to find their own solutions.
SACL employs 30 full-time, part-time and casual staff whose collective agreement ended March 31, 2010.
Kathie Best, a members services official with the employers association that bargains for several provincial ministries, says the Public Sector Employers Council has dictated a zero- increase mandate across the health sector.
“We’ve been having this current round of bargaining for about 18 months. We’re ready to come back to the table, but the union took their strike vote,” she says. “We have a set mandate of zero and unions are asking for more than that.”
Cheryl Colborne, CUPE Social Services co-ordinator, disagrees. She says the union understands there will be no more money, but job security, bumping and employment options need to be addressed.
“We have to have something to take back to our members,” she says, noting that moving clients to unlicensed or unmonitored homes is breaking up families. “They’re saying they’re (new accommodations) adequate, but they’re not and studies have proven that.”
Colborne says that in their haste to find cheaper care and alternate services, the province is robbing longtime employees of job security. She says community services is the worst-paid sector, with the worst benefits.
“We’re asking for very minor improvements, but our members have taken a strong strike vote – 82 per cent overall, and I have to tell you, in a sector where many (employees) are women, single parents working more than one job, that’s huge,” she says.
Crawford, meanwhile, says SACL management supports staff wholeheartedly.
“They put in a lot of overtime hours – we all do that,” she says. “I think it was somewhere in the neighbourhood of 400 hours last year.”
Crawford says changes to how services are provided have shut down day programs like the popular wood shop, which will close Oct. 1.
“The old programs were five days a week,” she says, noting employees knew when they would be working.
“Now, with individualized services, they might work with one individual four hours and another for another few hours. It’s very scattered.”
The process of completing essential services contracts throughout the province will be completed by Aug. 5. After that, the union need only deliver a 72-hour notice prior to striking.