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April 22, 2010
Salem News

Parents ask for resolution of dispute

To the editor:

My husband and I are the parents of a 39-year-old daughter who is a client at Employment Development Inc. Central. She has been in this wonderful MRDD program since she was 10 years old. We are in Florida and she resides at Felicity House in Lisbon. As we are away from her for a few months each year we rely on these facilities to train, and take care of her well being at this time.We have been following the contract negotiations between the MRDD board and all the personnel at EDI Central and South mostly through our hometown newspapers, the Morning Journal and the Salem News online.

We realize that not all the facts are written in these articles but so far this is what we've read. It has taken 16 months of negotiation to not settle this contract. An impartial fact finders' report has been turned down by the board although funds are available for these small raises. A strike notice had been given. Mr. Devon and the board are advertising for non-skilled workers or anyone willing to take the place of the trained staff. The staff at these facilities are trained to to do work training, work toward reaching habilitation plan goals, taking care of medical concerns,helping to assist in personal care issues as well as behavioral issues.

It is hard for me to believe that Bill Devon and the MRDD Board are willing to bring in untrained strangers to do these jobs. Most people have no idea what goes on on a daily basis at this facility as they have never been there to visit. How would you feel if you went to work one day and there were no familiar faces only strangers telling you what to do? This would be more than traumatic for these clients. Many of the clients with certain disabilities relate better to certain individuals as we all do. It sometimes takes several months or maybe years to build this rapport between them.

Untrained strangers off the street could not do these jobs. Mr. Devon said that he is willing to pay these strangers a starting wage of $15 per hour while workshop subs. (lowest on the pay scale) make only $9.21 per hour. It take years as a full-time person to make what he is willing to pay them to start. They are also willing to pay a bus driver $15 per hour when a bus driver with 13 years experience makes only $15.51 per hour. The board in the past month has given substantial raises to two people on their staff. The director of community and public relations with a 2 year associate degree now makes $43,591 per year. The service/Medicaid waiver manager who has not been employed as a manager for a full year makes $47,990. Does this make any sense?

Why is the board willing to pay these people and not the direct staff that really are the backbone of this program? What is wrong with this picture? The staff at these facilities work hard and have families who rely on them as we all do and deserve this small raise in pay.

Please contact Mr. Devon and the board and encourage them to settle this contract before any clients are negatively effected.





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