Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

July 12, 2007 10:22 ET

OPSEU: Under Funding, Workloads, Cited as Cause of Health Problems for ODSP Employees

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - July 12, 2007) - The findings of a report released yesterday by the Ministry of Community and Social Services paints an alarming picture of chronic under funding, crushing workloads and health problems faced by employees of the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

The results are contained in a report commissioned by the Ministry as part of a new Joint Problem Solving Process (JPSP) designed to smooth out the delivery of services and support to Ontarians with disabilities.

While the report concluded that a majority of ODSP employees support the JPSP, the impact on their working conditions and health has been enormous. High absentee rates, stress-related illness and chronic sleeping problems were cited as examples of how under funding and staff shortages have played havoc with the lives of ODSP employees.

"Dalton McGuinty was elected to government in 2003 on a promise to rebuild public services in Ontario. The report shows that very little progress has been made on this front and, in fact, we are witnessing a further erosion of services to our most vulnerable citizens," said Ontario Public Service Employees Union president Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

"You don't rebuild public services by attacking the health of the very employees who deliver those services."

The findings, prepared by two faculty members of labour studies at McMaster University, compared data compiled during two rounds of surveys and focus groups in 2005-06 involving ODSP employees and managers located in nine regions across the province. In total, more than 1,000 OPSEU members participated in one or both phases of the research.

The report emphasized the special role played by ODSP on behalf of clients. Their work is "... caring labour and emotional labour. It is caring in the sense that ODSP staff feel a direct responsibility for providing financial support to a clientele who are unable to support themselves. It is emotional labour in the sense that it shapes (the clients) emotional state," Wayne Lewchuk and Sam Vrankulj wrote in their report to the Ministry.

"We do this for our clients. This is the last option before the street, and they're disabled and not in a good spot; they're not the pretty people of the world - we're their lifeline. The organization (senior management) is not the one that has to look them in the eye and tell them they don't have money," said one ODSP employee, quoted in the study.

Thirteen recommendations were contained in the report, many of which pointed to the need for upgrading staffing and resource levels.

To read the full report please visit: www.opseu.org

Contact Information

    Greg Hamara
    OPSEU Campaigns Officer
    1-800-268-7376 ext 8777
    Cell: (647) 238-9933
    Website: www.opseu.org