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Child welfare workers call for ministry meeting to increase service and staffing levels, deal with $1 million deficit at Payukotayno.

Moosonee, ON – Child welfare staff at Payukotayno: James and Hudson Bay Family Services, an agency providing supports for at-risk children and youth in remote northern communities, are calling on the agency to not disrupt services now that contract talks have stalled.

Now that an employer-triggered lock out deadline of January 27 has passed, child welfare staff, who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 4313, are hopeful that the agency management will see the merit of working cooperatively to engage the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) in a joint dialogue on a projected $1 million deficit for 2011.

Provincial funding short-falls and budget woes are not new to Payukotayno. Less than three years ago, the agency was on the verge of closing when the ministry provided emergency funding to deal with the immediate budget problems. While emergency funding kept programs going, CUPE 4313 President Mike Tomatuk says “it did not solve the under-lying systemic issues faced by northern child welfare and family services. The ministry needs to do that now.”

The province’s own commission on child welfare admits in a recent report that Aboriginal CASs like Payukotayno face unique socio-economic challenges like poverty and high transportation and consumer good costs in providing services to remote communities.

If Payukotayno is again in a deficit situation, the ministry needs to come to terms with the reality that protecting at-risk children in northern communities requires more funding,” says Tomatuk.

Before contract talks broke off last week, Tomatuk proposed a joint union/employer meeting with the ministry in the coming weeks to effectively deal with the under-funding issues, gaps in services, positions not being filled, and front-line staff subsidizing travel costs.

We urge Payukotayno to support a joint meeting with the ministry and to continue to respect our existing working conditions so that CUPE 4313 members can continue to support families in our community with dignity and without unneeded confrontation,” said Tomatuk.

For more information please contact:

Kristy Davidson          
Acting Social Service Co-ordinator Ontario              

Mike Tomatuk            
CUPE 4313 President

Stella Yeadon
CUPE Communications