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The New Brunswick government is guilty of child neglect, say social workers struggling to help families in need in the province.

Children are being left in abusive and neglectful situations because social workers have so many cases they cant assure timely action, says Robert Le Moignan, president of CUPE Local 1418.

In one region, 19 child protection referrals were not investigated for a period of two months due to workload pressures. A 13-month-old baby who was shaken and slapped had to wait one month before a social worker could investigate the abuse, he says.

The union has been pressing for more than a year to increase staffing levels in order to protect the health and welfare of children in the province. But to date the province has hired only 45 social workers out of 172 recommended by the Child Welfare Review.

Every day we see the consequences of this inaction, says Le Moignan.

CUPE has taken the workload issue to the bargaining table but after 18 days of negotiations, the province has refused to make a commitment to improve service levels. Given the lack of progress, the union will be applying for a conciliation board.