Toronto Autism Services At Risk As Workers Unanimously Vote To Support Strike Action
Richmond Hill, Ontario — Over 100 frontline workers at Kerry’s Place Autism Services, a service provider to people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), have voted in favour of a strike as a possible next step if management refuses to offer them a contract that improves their working conditions.
On October 21, 2022, workers at Kerry’s Place voted unanimously in favour of a strike. The Kerry’s Place worker bargaining committee and management have met over ten times, with their last meeting on September 21, 2022. Management has failed to agree to a fair deal.
“Without us, there is no Kerry’s Place. Inflation rates are rising, our wages are below industry standards, and management forces us to work 13-hour shifts,” says Erica Valentine, a mother of three and Developmental Service Worker at Kerry’s Place for over 16 years. “Still, they constantly shut us down at the bargaining table, refusing to offer us a contract that shows they respect our work.”
For the last three years, Bill 124, legislation introduced and adopted by Doug Ford’s provincial government, has limited negotiations for workers at Kerry’s Place and capped wage and benefit increases to just 1%, well below the rate of inflation.
Now that their three-year period is over, workers at Kerry’s Place want a contract that delivers a wage increase to help with rising inflation, a fairer scheduling process, sick days for part-time workers and better mental health support, including mental health days, to help deal with the impacts of outbreaks and other challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and verbal and racial abuse they say Kerry’s Place chooses to ignore.
“For years, we develop trust and become the support system for entire families. But too often on the job, we experience physical and verbal abuse, and as mostly Black women in this field, we are often the victims of racism. When we are injured or need mental health support, our employer does not provide assistance or show any concern. This is support we badly need access to,” said Melissa McKenzie, a Developmental Service Worker at Kerry’s Place for over five years.
SEIU Healthcare and workers at Kerry’s Place also say that while management can improve working conditions and quality of life now, the government also has a duty to increase funding for Autism Services across Ontario, which would improve the quality of life for workers and families with children, adolescents, and adults with ASD.