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OPSEU demands workers terminated after raising safety concerns at Alliston organization be reinstated


More than 100 members and allies of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) gathered outside the head office of a community group in Alliston that provides care for people living with developmental disabilities to demand the termination of three workers be reversed.

"Shame, shame on this employer," said OPSEU Local 330 president Kelly Martin.

Protestors braved the chilly temperatures Tuesday afternoon, proudly waving flags in solidarity outside Community Living Association for South Simcoe (CLASS) head office for three developmental service workers allegedly fired for raising health and safety concerns.

"We're not talking about just little bumps and bruises. We're talking about concussions, broken bones and stitches and staff being taken away in ambulances," said former CLASS support worker Tristan Wazonek.

Former senior support worker Ashley Armstrong claims she was attacked by a client inside a CLASS group home, having suffered a concussion and having to take seven weeks off work.

Former senior support worker Ashley Armstrong said she suffered a concussion after being attacked by a client inside a CLASS group home. (Supplied)

"It was scary, and I was off work for a long period of time," Armstrong said she and others in the local union brought their concerns to management.

"They want to keep everyone with their mouth shut, is what they're doing. They're just letting people go," she added.

Former CLASS employee and OPSEU Local 332 president Allen May was among those who lost their jobs.

May worked for more than 32 years caring for the community's most vulnerable and said he was let go for demanding a safer work environment.

"So we had a rally, and that was enough for them. They fired us," May said.

"So rather than address the root causes of understaffing, of underfunding, what they're doing instead is forcing people out the door who have actually been the victims," said OPSEU / SEFPO President JP Hornick.

OPSEU members and allies gather in Alliston, Ont., outside Community Living Association for South Simcoe head office on Tues., March 7, 2023. (CTV News/Mike Arsalides)

CLASS executive director Andrew Walker released a statement to CTV News, acknowledging OPSEU's right to lawfully gather, "although we fiercely disagree with the union's claims as it relates to three former CLASS employees who were dismissed of their duties."

Walker noted the details of the terminations would remain between the organization and individuals, "however, we can share that these dismissals were grounded in facts related to the applicable laws and aligned with not only our policies but our values."

The statement concluded: "The well-being and safety of both employees and people supported have always been and will always be top of mind in all planning and support decisions and training provided. Any reports of violence or threats are taken seriously and treated with an immediate response.

CLASS has a proven track record of providing a safe work environment, as evidenced by annual compliance audits by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services and positive inspections by the Ministry of Labour."

Still, it isn't enough for the union, which confirmed it plans to continue fighting until it's satisfied the health and safety concerns raised by its members are addressed and the dismissed employees are reinstated. Top Stories

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