Children’s Aid workers on strike in Ottawa

Over 320 Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa (CASO) workers are now on strike.

OPSEU Local 454 the union who represent CASO workers said in a news release last week that if a deal wasn’t reached by July 6, 2024, they would go on strike.

This morning, OPSEU confirmed they are indeed picketing “as a last resort for change”.

The union says a key issue in talks between them and CASO are around protections against mass layoffs and wage increases. They say these issues were not on the table as of Thursday evening negotiations.

“We’ve been sounding the alarm on deteriorating conditions for years, as worksite after worksite closed before our eyes.” said Michele Thorn, President of OPSEU/SEFPO Local 454.

“Workers are going above and beyond their job descriptions to fill the gaps left by a government which neglects to fund other community agencies just as it neglects us – and still, kids are slipping through those gaps at alarming rates.”

The specific issue around protection against layoffs is a result to recent communication at the company about imminent layoffs, the union says.

“We’re already struggling with high rates of burnout as we try to keep pace with increasingly complex cases amidst dwindling resources. Layoffs will have disastrous consequences for workload and only make it harder for staff to keep families together” said Thorn.

The union also says the CASO is struggling to keep and hire staff due to low wages and it’s putting a strain on current workers.

“Kids deserve better than lip service,” said JP Hornick, President of OPSEU/SEFPO within a press release. “If Ford truly cared about children, his government wouldn’t keep putting the most vulnerable kids in our communities at risk – hundreds in Ottawa region, thousands across the province – by continuing to underfund Children’s Aid Societies.”

CASO says it “recognizes that budget constraints and resource limitations have strained employees.” It applauds the hard work over recent years descrbing their efforts as “exceptional”.

“We remain committed to open communication with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) to reach a fair and equitable resolution for all parties involved,” an email to CityNews from CASO states.

Ontario’s Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services says it expects all mandated services continue to be provided to children during the strike.

“…it is our (Ontario) government’s expectation that business continuity plans are in place to ensure all mandated services continue to be provided to children, youth and families, uninterrupted,” the statement reads.

The Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa said earlier Monday that “non-union team is prioritizing urgent child/youth safety issues.” In an email to CityNews, CASO says it has “implemented measures to ensure that urgent child welfare concerns are addressed promptly.”

The government says the increase in funding across the child welfare sector will be $36.5M this year. “Our government will continue to invest and redesign the child welfare system to focus on high-quality services that prioritize safety, are culturally appropriate and are responsive to the needs of children, youth and families.”

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