Throughout the pandemic, paramedics, public health and social services workers, and staff in public works have provided essential services to the residents of Waterloo Region.
They have responded to increased frequency of emergency calls relating to multiple forms of crises including domestic violence incidents and opioid overdoses, aided in managing vaccination clinics, helped people access social assistance programs, and repaired and maintained roads among a whole range of public services.
Providing these services during a pandemic hasn’t been easy. Paramedics represented by CUPE 5191 have worked longer shifts than usual, been repeatedly exposed to COVID-19, felt isolated from their own families, worked understaffed and kept going even as they have felt disrespected at the bargaining table by the employer, the Regional Municipality of Waterloo.
The employer has been replacing full-time workers with part-timers, is not addressing concerns about burnout and injuries, which are related to understaffing and overwork, as the Region prioritizes running a “lean service.”
The employer has been similarly cavalier in its negotiations with CUPE 1883, which represents 900 workers in child care, public health, IT, social services, finance, housing, museums, libraries, by-law enforcement, engineering, airport, landfill and transportation.
The Region is closing down four child care centres and leaving over 250 parents stranded while laying off over 80 workers. In other departments, increased workloads and mental health concerns have been met by indifference, as the employer prioritizes temporary employment and uses punitive disciplinary measures against its workforce.
Meanwhile, the township of Wellesley, whose mayor has a seat on the Regional Municipality of Waterloo’s Council, wants to completely rewrite the agreement with CUPE Local 1542.1, which represents 12 workers in public works and parks. The employer wants to alter hours of work while reducing benefits and sick time that have been previously negotiated.
All three Locals have been given overwhelming strike mandates by their members. However, their preference is to continue providing services (which as community members they also benefit from) and reach a fair settlement.
If you agree that the Region should negotiate fairly to ensure that workers providing public services have decent working conditions, please send a message to the Regional Councillors.