Negotiators for the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) of the District of Nipissing and Parry Sound have reneged on their pledge to the government and to the union to take outstanding contract issues in the current labour dispute to binding arbitration, once again leaving northern communities without the child protection services that have been denied them ever since the agency locked out its workers last December.
At the same time, the CAS’s representatives are trying to dodge their legal responsibility to bargain with the union that represents workers at Nipissing and Parry Sound CAS by dissolving the union in the workplace.
“Three weeks ago, we called on the Minister of Children and Youth Services, the Right Hon. Michael Coteau, to take over the administration of Nipissing and Parry Sound CAS,” said Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario.
“With this latest ruse by the society’s directors, I have to ask: What is Minister Coteau waiting for?
“This kind of move is unprecedented. The CAS’s directors are clearly unwilling to have the agency fulfil its most basic duties as a children’s aid society; they’ve also made it clear they want this CAS to operate as a non-union shop. It’s an agency out of control.”
In early April, the Ministry of Labour contacted both CUPE and the CAS to request that both parties explore arbitration as a path to restoring child welfare services in the north and ending the lockout. Minister Coteau had already expressed his support for arbitration as a way of resolving the labour dispute.
CUPE agreed immediately to the ministry’s request and worked hard, with the assistance of the provincial mediator, to use the past two weeks to make the necessary progress.
Throughout that same period, the CAS did little more than drag its feet by responding with irrational and unacceptable proposals – and this despite the fact that the CAS’s own board of directors had already passed a motion to take outstanding matters to arbitration.
“If the situation weren’t so serious for the community and for our members, I’d find it funny that the society’s directors have termed their imposition of terms ‘an invitation’ to CUPE members to return to work,” said Hahn.
“What they are really doing is attempting to dissolve the union. But I can tell you, neither the labour laws of Ontario nor the will of CUPE members will allow them to do this.”