The Children’s Aid Society (CAS) of the District of Nipissing and Parry Sound is playing a dangerous game of divide and conquer with the people who carry out and support child protection services in the north, while doing nothing to address the issues that are harming services, say representatives of the union that represents frontline workers at the agency.

Nipissing and Parry Sound CAS is attempting to sideline Local 2049 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents workers at the society, by forcing union members to vote on a contract offer that erodes working conditions and resolves none of the issues that put vulnerable children and families at risk. The offer was previously turned down by the local’s elected bargaining committee.

“The society could join forces with frontline child welfare workers and lobby the government for the resources needed to ensure workers can deliver effective services to families, youth and children in the north,” said Fran Bélanger, National Representative for CUPE.

Funding for child protection services in Ontario has remained stagnant over the past six years. The freeze has meant a growing deficit over the past three years at Nipissing and Parry Sound CAS, with the audited financial statements from March 2016 reporting a current deficit of nearly $3 million.

“This children’s aid society has shown it prefers brinkmanship to the hard work of finding common ground with its own employees,” said Bélanger. “We urge the directors of Nipissing and Parry Sound CAS to focus their efforts on finding the path to a fair deal that protects services.”

Through contract negotiations, CUPE is seeking to resolve matters such as workload and out-of-date layoff language, which have an impact on the quality of child protection services, including staff retention, recruitment and morale.

“The offer that CUPE members will vote on doesn’t address any of what is important to the families we serve or to the members we represent,” concluded Bélanger.

“Nipissing and Parry Sound CAS should forget the bully tactics and return instead to the table to bargain a fair deal with the local’s elected negotiating team.”

As requested by Nipissing and Parry Sound CAS, the Ministry of Labour will direct a vote by members of CUPE 2049 on the employer’s last contract offer; the vote will take place on Tuesday, December 13. CUPE members will be in a strike or lockout position on December 23.