Tension and merger pains tied to amalgamating two area child welfare agencies will intensify next week unless labour turmoil is avoided this weekend, warn front line workers at Family and Children’s Services of Lanark, Leeds and Grenville in Ontario.
Determined to strengthen programs while servicing a geographic area the size of Prince Edward Island, residential counsellors and child protection and administrative workers at the agency, are using the levers available to them in new contract talks to maintain a safe and healthy workplace. Keeping caseloads manageable to ensure adequate time to effectively protect children and youth from neglect and abuse is a priority.
Across Ontario over the past year, dozens of child welfare agencies, some also undergoing merger have worked cooperatively under a new government funding model to find creative solutions during challenging negotiations and avert a service disruption.
“We too can find a solution here that maintains quality services for the kids that rely on us. But there has to be the will on both sides to improve our programs,” says Mike Burt, president of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 2577. He highlights that across the child welfare sector a pattern of new contracts, with working conditions no different than what CUPE 2577 is proposing, is already in place.
“Other agencies have led the way. We aren’t asking our administration to break new ground here. Rather we want the norm in our sector. It’s the administration whoare outliers. They want to lower working conditions tied to staff being better able to protect at-risk children. What we don’t understand is how our agency thinks they will retain experienced staff, if our working conditions don’t keep pace with those of neighbouring agencies,” says Burt.
CUPE 2577 and negotiators with Family and Children’s Services of Lanark, Leeds and Grenville are meeting Thursday and Friday this week for the final few days of contracts talks before a strike/lock out deadline of Monday, February 4, 2013 at 12:01 a.m.
“We continue to be optimistic that the agency administration will see the benefits of resolving our issues by adopting the provincial pattern andworking conditions for our sector. It’s the right thing to do to keep children safe and services stable,” says Burt.
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President CUPE 2577