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Community Living workers rally to raise awareness of workplace violence in Alliston

January 27, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Brian Lockhart

Development services workers along with supporters held a rally in front of the Community Living Association for South Simcoe (CLASS) offices on Dufferin Street in Alliston on Monday (Jan. 23) to raise awareness of an increase in workplace violence.

They are asking their employer to take immediate action in the wake of numerous incidents of workplace violence over the past year.

Development Service workers at CLASS say they are not trained to support individuals with complex needs. This includes people with mental health and addiction issues that have been assigned to CLASS.

Many of the people at the rally are members of OPSEU/SEFPO local 332.

Rally representatives have said there has been some action regarding their complaints, but not enough is being done to protect them.

“They are doing some stuff, we gave them some recommendations, but it’s not fast enough – we’re still getting people hurt, and we’re not coming to work to get hurt,” explained OPSEU/ SEFPO local 332 president Allan May. “Maybe we’re not equipped to work with these people. We have non-violent crisis training, but we’re not equipped for this. We just had another gentleman hurt on Friday. He was punched in the mouth.”

Mr. May, who has worked at CLASS for 32 years, said he has seen a change in clients over the years. CLASS traditionally helps those who are mentally challenged, but people with mental health and addiction issues have created a new dynamic.

“I’ve seen it change,” Mr. May said. “It’s not just going out and having fun and going on a trip, it’s changed. We’re getting violent people with mental health issues. We have staff going out off on leaves because they’re worn out. We’re having a lot of staff turnover.”

Members say assaults have resulted in concussions, stitches, broken bones, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mr. May said the problem is occurring in other places as well.

“We’re developmental services – we’re known as the people who don’t complain. We’re never usually rebels, but now I’m having locals in the region call me saying, ‘it’s happening to us as well.’ Since we started this lobby back in November, they (management) started picking things up a little more, and said ‘okay, we’re going to do this.’ But we need a date. We’ve started seeing change. What started this for me, was in Ottawa, we had one of our ladies that was killed in a group home.”

In response to a media inquiry about these complaints, CLASS executive director, Andrew Walker, supplied a statement about CLASS’s position on the issue.

“It is important to understand the CLASS is annually subjected to a compliance audit by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services,” according to the statement. “Compliance audits ensure that the agency is meeting all regulatory requirements and standards set by MCCSS through quality assurance measures. These measures include that proper training is being received by all staff. CLASS has also been inspected by the Ministry of Labour and has received positive feedback about our work environments, internal procedures and support conditions.”

The statement went on to say, “Rigorous planning goes into each person coming into service and those requiring more complex supports around mental health and addictions receive a behavioural support plan that is revised and adjusted on a regular basis. CLASS also works with a broad range of external community partners and experts to ensure that employees have access to the most up-to-date resources. Any reports of violence or threats are taken seriously and treated with an immediate response.”


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