Ontario service workers reinstated after being let go for allegedly calling out safety concerns

On Tuesday, March 7, 2023, over a hundred OPSEU union members gathered outside the Community Living Association of South Simcoe facility in Allston to protest the firming of three workers. Photo by Peter Figliola / Local 234 - President

Workers at the Community Living Association of South Simcoe (CLASS) have been reinstated after the union protested their firings last week.

On Tuesday, March, 7, between 100 and 200 OPSEU union members held a rally outside the facility’s Allison location to protest the workers being let go.

The three developmental service workers alleged they were fired for raising concerns about what they claim is a dangerous work environment at CLASS.

In December 2022, the union representing the workers, OPSEU, told reporters Local 332 members had reported multiple physical and verbal assaults while supporting individuals in the community living facility.

Local union president and direct support professional Allan May later said he, the union’s treasurer and a joint health and safety representative were let go from their jobs on Feb. 1.

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A joint statement released late Wednesday by CLASS and OPSEU/SEFPO said the issue had been resolved, and the three employees will be returning to work.

“CLASS and OPSEU/SEFPO acknowledge the importance of protecting the safety of all CLASS employees while protecting and safeguarding the interests and privacy of the people that CLASS serves,” the two groups said in a joint statement.

“CLASS respects and acknowledges OPSEU/SEFPO’s right to advocate for its members’ rights, and for employees to participate in the lawful activities of their union, including the right to lawfully gather.”

The statement went on to say that “appropriate measures have been put in place to deal with the concerns that led to the dismissal of the employees,” and they have “committed to a process to support the health and safety of CLASS staff.”

The joint statement finished by saying there will be no further comment about the circumstances giving rise to the terminations or the resolutions of those matters out of respect for the people involved.

The decision to reinstate the three employees comes after the organization’s executive director, Andrew Walker, previously said in a statement that “these dismissals were grounded in facts.”

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OPSEU union members rallying outside the Community Living Association of South Simcoe facility in Allston to protest the firming of three workers on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. Photo by Peter Figliola / Local 234 - President

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May, who has worked for CLASS for 32 years and has been union president for 20 years, is a year away from retirement and told Global News earlier this month he and the workers all wanted their jobs back in addition to changes being made to address safety concerns.

In December 2022, the union said incidents of workplace violence resulted in concussions, stitches, broken bones and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Yes, we work with developmental disabilities, getting spit on, kicked and punched. We know we get that, and we’re trained with non-violent crisis intervention, so that’s good, but they seem to be increasing, and we just can’t keep up — a lot of concussions, a broken nose, a lot of violence happening,” May said in an interview earlier this month.

CLASS provides support for people with developmental disabilities with the help of funding from the Ministry of Children and Social Services and runs multiple group homes.

The workers at CLASS assist clients in their daily activities and support them in participating in the community through social and community activities, employment and volunteer opportunities.

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