Workers at the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre are calling on their colleagues to band together and unionize after facing years of unsafe working conditions, unlivable wages and a lack of fair and transparent hiring practices.
Despite their invaluable community work, Calgary Drop-In staff are severely underpaid. Full-time caseworkers are paid below the Government of Alberta’s Core Needs Income Threshold. Despite being on-call around the clock, service workers do not receive shift premiums when working evening or overnight. At the same time, executive staff are paid salaries between $160,000 and $299,000, according to data from the Canada Revenue Agency.
“We don’t do these jobs for the money. We do them because we care about our communities and supporting society’s most vulnerable, but we still need to eat. We have kept our heads down and remained silent for too long. Something has to change, and the only way we are going to see changes is by banding together,” said a Calgary Drop-In Centre worker whose identity cannot be revealed due to the threat of retaliation from their employer.
Drop-In Centre workers often work with clients with complex mental health issues, many of whom struggle with addiction. Substance abuse issues and drug poisonings have made difficult front-line work even more dangerous and mentally exhausting.
“There are days when workers on the floor are dealing with multiple overdoses and we are simply expected to carry on working without even a break,” said a Calgary Drop-In Centre worker. “We build strong relationships with individuals we work with, and it is heart-breaking and traumatic to find someone you care about has died of an overdose. We don’t have the emotional and mental health supports to work through the trauma associated with that.”
Calgary Drop-In centre employees are fighting for a fair and safe workplace. They have decided to make their union drive public to combat fear and raise awareness among the hundreds of staff that there is a way forward. Workers at the DI and the community are encouraged to reach out to Colette Singh at firstname.lastname@example.org and Dominique Damian-Wallace at email@example.com for more information on how to sign up or regarding the union drive.