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Child Care and Social Services workers fight to raise expectations and change attitudes

Toronto, October 6 to 9, 2014

Workers from the social services and child care sectors took full advantage of the opportunity to share information, strategies and success stories at the National Sector Council Conference.

Social services sector council co-chairs Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam and Michael Lanier were joined by child care sector co-chairs Randi Gurholt-Seary and Jamie Kass. Discussion was fuelled by good representation from all subsectors – developmental services, child protection, community agencies and municipal social services, as well as child care.

CUPE researchers Sarah Ryan and Margot Young presented an overview of the social services and child care sectors including the CUPE-supported federal election rethinkchildcare.ca campaign and the ChildCare2020 national child care policy conference held in November 2014 in Manitoba.

Through a series of small and large group discussions, participants identified common themes and issues, with the priority being the need for adequate funding. Other priorities are wages, health and safety, training and credentials, and workload.

The CCPA’s Trish Hennessey spoke to members about “Raising Expectations” and resisting the austerity narrative. Given poor economic performance and high unemployment, as well as the damage done to young workers and others in the growing ranks of precarious and part-time work, Hennessey urged us to “stop drinking the austerity Kool-Aid.”

She flagged the critically important role of unions in resisting austerity, being agents of equality, and changing the conversation to a solutions discussion.

A session where members shared success stories offered much inspiration and creativity. Jennifer Kirby from CUPE 181-2 talked about the successful campaign to resist a cost-saving five-day shutdown at Brant’s Children’s Aid Society, which left members more active and engaged.

Michael Lanier (CUPE 1936) talked about the B.C. community social services campaign to raise public awareness and support across the province. Patricia Perry shared the experience of CUPE 4459 in New Glasgow Nova Scotia where the local successfully raising the profile of and support for transition house workers.

The success stories reinforced the fact that our greatest resource is our members, the importance of building coalitions, and the need to take the time to develop a clear and focused plan.

Break-out sessions allowed members to discuss trends in their specific sub-sectors such as privatization in developmental services and key allied organizations to connect with in the child care community. Sub-sector groups discussed common issues as well as strategies for building power.

Looking to the future, members want the sector council to assist in developing common bargaining approaches and strategies and to provide information. A session survey indicated that members prefer emails, newsletters, and the national website to facilitate communication.

Photo album: Child Care and Social Services sector council meeting