CUPE Ontario Statement

There are 45,000 developmental service workers in our province and over 12,000 of them are proud members of CUPE Ontario.

These workers are highly skilled. They are personal chefs one minute, therapists the next. They coach people through crises, attend to medical needs, and help them with their finances. They provide whatever support is needed for adults and children with developmental disabilities to lead rich, full lives. Their work is fundamentally about expanding human dignity – but too often it’s invisible.

This year, to mark Developmental Service Worker Appreciation Week, CUPE Ontario is pulling back the curtain on the changes this female-dominated workforce needs within the sector as they continue to care for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

Developmental service workers are driven by the best of our values. When asked what motivates their work, Jackson Mbabazi, a developmental service worker and CUPE 3826 member said: “I believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to lead a fulfilling dignified life. My dedication to this work is rooted in a desire to advocate for those whose voices are often unheard and to contribute to a society that values and supports all its members.”

But all is not well with developmental service work. The deeply meaningful aspirations of workers like Jackson are impossible to achieve in the system we currently have.

Funding for developmental services has flatlined since 2019 despite more than 27,000 people with disabilities now languishing on waitlists for support in Ontario. The little money that has been allocated for this work has gone into privatizing services which we know will inevitably lead to a race to the bottom that hurts communities and workers.

This past year the developmental service sector convulsed with frustration. CUPE Ontario proudly stood with thousands of developmental service workers from locals across Ontario as they took strike votes, walked picket lines, held rallies, sent tens of thousands of emails to Boards of Directors and called MPPs. And that work will continue until we achieve the fundamental change needed in this sector.

The 12,000 developmental service worker members of CUPE Ontario know that their work changes lives. And they know what’s needed to fix the broken system.

  • Improve funding to the sector. This sector has only seen a 3.9 per cent funding increase over the last three decades while inflation has increased more than 50 per cent. This underfunding isn’t an accident – it’s a choice, in line with the Province’s overall underfunding of the care economy to the tune $3.7 billion according to the Financial Accountability Office. This must end. It leads directly to tragically long waitlists for clients and workers who are put in dangerous situations due to understaffing.
  • Increase worker safety. Developmental workers are supporting more transitional aged youth with enter the adult system with dual diagnosis and addictions issues, but they don’t have proper training or safety plans.
  • Legislate WSIB coverage for all workers. Given the health and safety risks associated with all frontline work, it is imperative that all developmental service agencies provide their workforce with WSIB coverage.
  • End privatization and protect day programs. We have seen the crisis that privatization brought in long term care homes. It will do the same in developmental services, creating a race to the bottom. We need to invest in publicly funded, publicly delivered care.

Listen to workers. Developmental service workers from CUPE – and other unions – have been asking for meetings with this government for years only to be ignored. These workers, along with the families they support, are experts. They have creative solutions to the problems plaguing the sector.