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Down to the wire, area child welfare staff reach tentative contract, avoid service disruption

Provincial under-resourcing of mergers at child welfare agencies like Family and Children’s Services of Lanark, Leeds and Grenville is creating a volatile labour relations climate in the sector according to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

Contracts talks at many of the merged child welfare agencies “have, as in our case, gone to the brink of labour unrest. This should give Ontario’s Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) which is gearing up for more service amalgamations in the coming year, pause. MCYS needs to provide adequateon-going funding to support mergers in order to avoid agency administrations trying to find money by lowering the service standards and the working conditions of front line staff,” says Mike Burt, president of CUPE 2577.

After months of tense negotiations and, facing a lock out / strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. Monday, February 4, CUPE 2577 and Family and Children’s Services of Lanark, Leeds and Grenville, reached a tentative contract this weekend. CUPE 2577 members are voting on the new contract this Thursday.

Maintaining existing service levels and a process to gauge the complexity of caseloads so that child protection workers have the time to deal effectively with families and children in crisis were key priorities for CUPE 2577 in the contract talks.

In 2009, there were 53 children’s aid societies (CASs) in the province. A government appointed commission reviewing child welfare has recommended a downsizing of the sector through agency mergers. In the last two years, thirteen agencies have amalgamated to create six new CAS’s.

Recently the commission has recommended that the ministry explore further possibilities for mergers, this time including children’s mental health, developmental services and youth justice and new population-based funding model based on the number of children in a designated service area.

Communities like Brockville, Perth, Smiths Falls, Kemptville, Gananoque and Almonte where population growth is stagnant or small and community-based mental health and family supports are minimal, “more amalgamations and shared services is not about improving the quality of services, it is aboutcost-cutting, nothing more,” says Sarah Declerck, CUPE social service coordinator.

For more information please contact:

Mike Burt                     
President CUPE 2577

Sarah Declerck          
CUPE (Ontario) Social Service Coordinator

Stella Yeadon              
CUPE Communications