A Markham home for adults with disabilities is in dire need of help after an outbreak of the novel coronavirus caused the majority of staff to walk off the job. Participation House is home to 42 adults with disabilities and as of Friday, had a confirmed 10 residents and two staff members test positive for COVID-19, Debra McLaughlin, a member of the board of directors, told Global News.
McLaughlin said Shelley Brillinger, executive director of Participation House, told staff about the outbreak Thursday, which then caused workers to walk off the job. McLaughlin said that Brillinger and four other managers were providing care for the residents.
Palmer Lockridge, a spokesperson for Ontario’s community services ministry, said in an statement Friday afternoon that there were eight support staff in the facility, including three personal support workers and a nurse.
McLaughlin alleged that the union is refusing to allow staff to come back, even after being offered double their salary. Agencies who supply personal support workers reportedly also won’t send anyone.
Tom Galivan, a spokesperson with Service Employees International Local 2, said it’s an “absolute lie” that employees were told to not return to work and said the union has had difficulty contacting
Management told workers about the cases on Thursday and said staff who felt they were exposed could self-isolate, Galivan said.
Galivan couldn’t confirm if all the staff left at the same time, but said “characterizing this as a job action is misleading.” He added that there has been a lack of personal protective equipment since the pandemic began. “This is vulnerable clientele and we want our members to return to work in a safe place, but they have the right to decline work if they feel unsafe,” Galivan said.
He confirmed that management discussed a possible wage raise, but said he doesn’t know if this is “an actual commitment from them.There has been an longstanding issue with wages and staff morale that has been exacerbated with COVID-19 cases at the facility,” Galivan said.