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Local 79 members express disappointment & frustration over SAMS

The following letter from CUPE Local 79 President Tim Maguire, faxed to the Minister of Community and Social Services on Dec. 5, shares the disappointment and frustration felt by Local 79 members over the Province’s new Social Assistance Management System (SAMS).


 

Dear Minister Jaczek,

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 79 has grave concerns regarding the Social Assistance Management System (SAMS), a new caseload management system for Ontario Works workers.

CUPE Local 79 represents approximately 20,000 members at the City of Toronto, Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) and Bridgepoint Hospital. A significant number of our members work in the Toronto Employment and Social Services (TESS) Division.

These members, in response to a survey we conducted recently on SAMS, have provided us with an abundance of comments covering everything from customer service and service delivery, to technology problems, and impacts on health.

An overwhelming number of responses were received in a very short time frame – all negative! We believe that in your role as Minister of Community and Social Services you will benefit from hearing about some of the numerous issues raised by our members regarding SAMS.

Customer Service:

  • CUPE Local 79 members who are Ontario Works workers believe that SAMS has already had a negative impact on their ability to deliver the service that clients deserve. The inordinate amount of time that it takes to process applications for assistance has left clients concerned and fearful that they may not receive funds.
  • Clients have been complaining about longer wait times due largely to “glitches” in the new system that, to date, have remained unresolved. (e.g. a simple task such as an address change takes three times as long as in the former system.)

Technology:

  • The SAMS technology is counterintuitive, complicated and confusing. It involves a tremendous amount of data entry which is robbing our members of the opportunity to have meaningful exchanges with their clients. It now takes four or more actions (and in some cases 57 clicks) to complete a process compared to one in the previous system.
  • The SAMS system is NOT user-friendly, is very work-intensive, and is hard to comprehend.

Health Impact:

  • Members who have worked for decades at TESS without any health issues are now reporting repetitive strain, carpal tunnel, shoulder, back and neck problems, and eye strain.
  • The most repeated complaint as a result of the new system is stress, including the anxiety caused by not being able to assist the clients in a timely fashion, as our members are accustomed to doing.
  • SAMS has created a source of tension between clients and caseworkers.

Our members pride themselves in providing excellent customer service to their clients – who are vulnerable and welcome the support our members offer. This new SAMS system is severely impeding our members’ ability to work at the level they are accustomed to, and deliver the quality of service that their clients deserve.

The multitude of problems with SAMS should have prompted a sincere acknowledgment of the issues from you. Instead, you flippantly remarked; “Occasionally there are administrative errors.” CUPE Local 79 members working with TESS were both disappointed and angered that the Minister of Community and Social Services would display such a profound lack of understanding of the current situation created by SAMS.

CUPE Local 79 is urging that you conduct a thorough review of the new SAMS system up to and including whether to discontinue the use of SAMS.

Until that review is completed, your Ministry must immediately take whatever actions are necessary to rectify all of the technology problems that SAMS users are experiencing.

Yours truly,

Tim Maguire
President

c.c. Premier Kathleen Wynne
     Andrea Horwath Leader Ontario NDP
     Jim Wilson, Leader Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario

 

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