Approximately 4,500 personal support workers walked off the job Wednesday across the province.

The workers are employed by Red Cross Care Partners and are part of the SEIU Healthcare union.

They don’t directly provide medical care, but do help improve the lives of their clients by helping them with their daily needs.

In Waterloo Region, an estimated 2,000 people receive care from the striking personal support workers.

The 4,500 workers have been in a legal strike position for several weeks, and without a contract since April.

Bill Hulme, an SEIU council lead, tells CTV News they decided to hit the picket lines after “overwhelmingly” rejecting the company’s most recent offer.

“We’ve come to this point where the only way to get their attention is to go out on strike,” he says.

Wages, mileage pay and vehicle maintenance costs are key issues in the dispute.

Striking workers say it was a tough decision to walk off the job, particularly knowing the effect their absence could have on their clients.

“We all care about our clientele,” says Tammy Moyer.

“If we had a choice, we’d be taking care of them and not standing here – but together, as a union, we are fighting for justice.”

Tanya Elliott, director of communications for Red Cross Care Partners, says the agency will attempt to avoid or minimize disruptions, particularly with high-priority clients.

“We do have contingency plans in place,” she says.

That sentiment was echoed by the Waterloo-Wellington Community Care Access Centre, which employs local striking workers on behalf of Red Cross Care Partners.

“While we respect the labour relations process between the two parties, we will focus on making sure that patients with high needs continue to receive the care they need,” the CCAC said in a statement.

In some cases, striking workers say, the type of care they normally do will likely fall on their clients’ friends and families.

No further negotiations between the striking workers and Red Cross Care Partners have been scheduled, but Elliott says “the lines of communication remain open” between the two sides.

Union representatives say pickets are planned for Kitchener-Waterloo and Guelph on Friday.

With files from The Canadian Press