When frontline child protection workers and support staff walked out of their jobs with Family and Children’s Services of Lanark, Leeds and Grenville (FCSLLG) nearly three weeks ago, they were focused on improving services for their communities and working conditions to better recruit and retain staff. Today they ratified a new contract that takes incremental steps to address those needs.

The deal, which contains improved workload language, higher wages, and an increased mileage allowance, narrowly passed, with 43 members voting in favour and 40 opposed.

“This should serve as a wakeup call for our agency and the entire Ministry. Workers are not happy. The communities we serve are not happy,” said Arlette Carrier, CUPE 2577 President. “People came out in droves to support us because they know we should be doing better by families and children. We voted for this deal because we want to be there for those who need us, but we are going to keep organizing and keep the pressure on to make sure we have the resources we need to support families.”

Members earned a 6.75% wage increase over the life of the contract, which runs until 2024, and an increased gas allowance from 52 cents to 58 cents for 2024 – still well below the 68 cent Canadian Revenue Agency recommendation, but a needed improvement for members who cover such a large geographic area. The issue which caused the greatest stir in the meeting, though, was workload. Workload triggers – the number of cases members can have before a meeting is automatically set with their manager to review their case burden – was lowered by one, a move that Carrier says will only begin to alleviate member burnout and improve the quality of services families receive.

The three-week long strike revealed divisions between FCSLLG and the Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services. The agency’s Executive Director and Chair of the Board called on the Ministry to restore lost funding that is hurting the community, while the Ministry denied making any cuts.

“There are flashpoints in the child welfare sector across the province and this isn’t going to change until the Ford government puts their money where their mouth is and invests in workers and vulnerable children,” said Fred Hahn President of CUPE Ontario. “I am so proud of the courage of these workers. I hope every Children’s Aid Society in Ontario, takes a close look at the issues workers are raising and realizes that we are your allies in this fight to improve the lives of children and families. We need employers and the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies to get off the sidelines and show even an ounce of the incredible moral fortitude these workers showed here.”

The deal still needs to be ratified by the employer. Picket lines are now down, and members expect to be back at work on August 8.