Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa workers on strike, demanding job protection

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Children’s Aid Society (CAS) workers in Ottawa are now on strike after talks broke down between officials and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) over the weekend.

The two sides were aiming to strike a deal before Saturday morning, but the deadline passed after CAS was unable to guarantee that no job cuts were on the horizon.

“Our employer is planning to cut at least 20 jobs after we’re done bargaining,” said OPSEU Local 454 president Michele Thorn.

More than a hundred employees took to the picket line outside the Telesat Court location on Monday, demanding more staff and funding. Many held signs accusing the provincial government of deliberately underfunding CAS in what union officials are calling a move towards privatization.

“We have a $6.3 million shortfall right now, and they need a $5 million increase in their base funding just to keep up,” said OPSEU president JP Hornick.

“This government has been figuring out how to privatize aspects instead of investing the money that we need in order to make the existing systems work.”

Employees on the picket line paint the picture of a strained workforce facing an increase in resource challenges.

“I have workers in tears constantly that cry in their cars every day,” said Thorn. “They feel completely inadequate.”

In a statement to CTV News, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services claims the province has only increased funding for child welfare as part of a $310 million investment “to address operational costs for community organizations that support vulnerable people across the province.”

It goes on to say: “For the child welfare sector, the increase will be $36.5 million this year.”

Both CAS and OPSEU say they have not seen enough of an increase – the two parties holding a join press conference mid June to call on the province for more resources.

“This is not a game – this is the safety of children,” said Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden on Monday. “Some of these children are in the family emergency shelters, living in motel rooms without kitchens, feeding themselves with microwaves, cutting their vegetables on bathroom countertops.”

With employees on the picket line, it has seen a full disruption of services at CAS, including its foster care programs and child abuse councilors. The organization declined an interview Monday, but in a statement issued to CTV News, they insist some services remain operational during the strike, writing that they have “implemented measures to ensure that urgent child welfare concerns are addressed promptly.”

CTV News reached out again asking exactly what services remain open to clients, but did not hear back before deadline.

“This isn’t something you want to delay,” said Harden. “Every hour we are missing these services we are putting kids at risk.”

“This is Canada. We can do better than this.”

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