TORONTO – Childrens Aid Society of Toronto (CAST) workers voted overwhelmingly this week to give their union negotiating committee a mandate to call a strike if they are unable to reach an agreement with their employer.
It is no surprise to us that workers voted 85 per cent in favour of a strike, says Valarie Hartling, the president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 2316. CAST employees are overworked and under incredible pressure. Now, their employer is looking for concessions in pensions, job security, seniority rights, and other areas. The workers are fed up. They are sending a strong message to the Childrens Aid Society of Toronto to drop the demands for concessions and bargain a decent contract.
Workload, legal liability coverage for workers, and staff safety are some of the issues being negotiated. Workload is the number one issue, says Hartling. Caseloads exceed the guidelines set by the Ministry of Community, Family and Childrens Services through their funding formula. The Ontario Association of Childrens Aid Societies (OACAS) research suggests that even the funding formula caseload numbers are too high.
Workers at the Childrens Aid Society of Toronto are incredibly dedicated to their clients and their jobs, says Local 2316 secretary, Paula Dixon. Management contract proposals fail utterly to acknowledge this. The lack of respect for the work we do is appalling.
Negotiations began in February. Talks are set to resume June 21, 24, 27 and 28, with a government- appointed conciliator.
Local 2316 represents 750 workers at the Childrens Aid Society of Toronto, including full-time and part-time Child Protection workers, Child and Youth workers, High Risk Infant Nurses, and Support and Maintenance workers.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees represents more than 180,000 workers across Ontario, many of whom work for social service agencies, municipalities, hospitals, school boards, and universities.
For more information:
Paula Dixon, Local 2316 Recording-Secretary
Peter Paulekat, CUPE National Representative
Shannon McManus, CUPE Communications