Children’s Aid Society workers at Service Familiaux Jeanne Sauvé Family Services in six northern communities have voted 90 per cent in favour of strike action.
CAS staff in Kapuskasing, Hearst, Cochrane, Smooth Rock Falls, Timmins and Moonbeam are prepared to walk off the job if the employer does not take significant concessions off the table, said a spokesperson for Local 639 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union which represents 80 workers.
“At time when the need for child protection services is greater than ever, we find ourselves losing jobs and cutting back on programs during bargaining. The repercussions of those kinds of attacks on workers and service users are serious in our line of work” says Local 639 president Barb Hutchings.
“It’s just plain wrong to attack workers who have one of the toughest jobs around when many in the North are already struggling to get by,” said OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “It’s about time this government got its priorities straight.
“Must we remind Children and Youth Services Minister Laurel Broten that the CAS has an obligation under the law to deliver services to protect at-risk children? How can that be done when workers are laid off and programs are cut?”
The agency is facing a $211,000 deficit. The situation in northeastern Ontario is similar to places elsewhere in Ontario where 49 of 53 children’s aid societies are reporting financing problems.
Members of local municipal councils have expressed deep concerns over program cuts and the impact of service reduction. In Kapuskasing on April 19, council members adopted a resolution that called on the Ministry to restore stable funding to the local CAS.
Both parties are scheduled to meet with a conciliator on April 27. Key issues in negotiations include lay offs, 25 per cent premium pay for benefits and cuts to vacation time, sick days, vacation, and compassionate leave.