A spokesperson for child protection workers at the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) of the District of Nipissing and Parry Sound is calling on the society to address the obstacles to providing high-quality child protection services in the north and to stop focusing on “non-issues” that prevent both sides from reaching a fair deal.

Responding to recent claims in the media made by the executive director of Nipissing and Parry Sound CAS, a national representative of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) pointed out that the society has indeed made cuts to its support services staff in 2012 and 2013.

CUPE’s Fran Bélanger also emphasized that the society regularly leaves frontline positions vacant, doesn’t replace employees who are on sick leave, and doesn’t fill other temporary vacancies.

For the remaining child protection workers, these measures require them to cover absent colleagues’ caseloads and perform extra administrative tasks, even though they themselves may be struggling under already excessive workloads,

“The executive director calls this vacancy management, but let’s call it what it really is: eliminating full-time positions,” said Bélanger. “There is no way that this doesn’t have an impact on the families that CUPE members serve.”

The society’s non-mandated programs, such as its Community Support Team and Kinship Assessment Department, have also been cut, she added.

“However the society wants to spin it, these are cuts. They affect families as well as workers and they have a direct impact on the quality of services provided by frontline workers,” said Bélanger.

This makes the society’s focus on sick leave even more of a red herring, she noted.

“When it’s the policy of Nipissing and Parry Sound CAS not to replace workers who are sick, exactly how can workers’ sick leave provisions be unsustainable for the society, as the executive director claims?”

Child welfare and support workers at Nipissing and Parry Sound CAS are in a legal lockout or strike position on December 23. CUPE will meet the society in mediation on Tuesday, December 20.