Childcare strike: Workers to stop work on Monday

Childcare strike: Workers to stop work on Monday
Childcare strike: Workers to stop work on Monday

Workers at the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) in Ottawa are now on strike after negotiations between civil servants and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) broke down over the weekend.

The two sides wanted to reach an agreement by Saturday morning, but the deadline passed because CAS could not guarantee that no jobs would be lost.

“Our employer plans to cut at least 20 jobs after negotiations,” said Michele Thorn, president of OPSEU Local 454.

More than 100 workers took to the picket line outside the Telesat Court facility on Monday to demand more staff and funding. Many held signs accusing the provincial government of deliberately underfunding CAS in what union officials call a move toward privatization.

“We currently have a $6.3 million deficit and they need a $5 million increase in their base funding to stay afloat,” said OPSEU President JP Hornick.

“This government has been busy coming up with ways to privatize aspects rather than investing the money we need to make the existing systems work.”

Workers on the picket line paint a picture of a workforce under pressure and facing increasing staff shortages.

“I have employees who are constantly in tears and crying in their cars every day,” Thorn said. “They feel completely inadequate.”

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

It continues: “For child protection, the increase this year is $36.5 million.”

Both CAS and OPSEU say they have not seen enough increase. The two parties held a joint press conference in mid-June to call for more resources from the province.

“This is not a game — this is child safety,” Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden said on Monday. “Some of these kids are in family shelters, living in motel rooms with no kitchens, feeding themselves with microwaves, cutting their vegetables on the bathroom counter.”

With workers on the picket line, it has seen a complete disruption of services at CAS, including foster care programs and child abuse counselors. The organization declined to be interviewed Monday, but in a statement to CTV News, they stressed that 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 to ask what services were still available to clients, but did not receive a response by deadline.

“This is not something you want to delay,” Harden said. “Every hour we miss these services, we are putting children at risk.”

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