Two pink flags, one says SCFP, the other says CUPEApproaching their third week on strike, child protection workers and support staff have reached a tentative agreement with Family and Children’s Services of Lanark, Leeds and Grenville (FCSLLG).

“This tentative deal was made possible by the fierce determination of my coworkers and the overwhelming support we’ve received from the public,” said Arlette Carrier, CUPE 2577 President. “Thousands of people sent messages demanding better from our agency and the provincial government. Thousands more came out to our public events. There are so many misconceptions about what child welfare workers do and I can’t overstate how much it meant to us to see our communities rally behind us and join our calls for improved services and treatment of workers.”

The nearly 100 members of CUPE 2577 initiated job action on July 12 following more than a year of bargaining. While other Children’s Aid Societies made incremental improvements in wages and workloads – most notably, Children’s Aid Society of Toronto recently negotiated a drop in their caseload caps – FCSLLG refused to recognize the burnout workers are experiencing or meaningfully improve their wages or mileage allowance amidst rising costs of living.

“We’re tired of our clients having to apologize to us. We hear, ‘I’m sorry to bother you, I know you’re busy,’ all the time and that should never be the case,” said Jennifer Cromey, a family service worker with FCSLLG. “Our jobs are to support families, to keep them strong, and to keep children safe. We just want the resources to make that possible and this deal is a small step in that direction.”

Tough negotiations and job actions are roiling the child welfare sector after years of government cuts and downward pressure on workers. Cases are more demanding than ever as workers try to provide in-community supports to keep families together amidst layers of mental health challenges, poverty, violence and addiction. “Until something changes at the top, until we see the Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services make a meaningful commitment to keeping vulnerable children safe, we’re going to see more workers picketing to ensure their communities get investments,” said Carrier.

Picket lines will remain up until the ratification vote which will take place Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. No further information will be released publicly until the tentative agreement has been presented to the membership.