The end has come for a four month lockout at the Nipissing and Parry Sound Children's Aid Society.
According to a CUPE news release, "strong solidarity and enormous political pressure" caused the Society to make an eleventh-hour decision to end the labour dispute.
This afternoon the Society’s executive director Gisele Hebert signed the return-to-work protocol provided by CUPE and agreed to enter into binding arbitration.
"The society made this latest move in the face of overwhelming solidarity among the workers it locked out four months ago; the strong community support they enjoyed; and their decision to take strike action in response to the draconian terms and conditions that the CAS wanted to impose in return for lifting the lockout," says the release.
The agreed return-to-work protocol will see workers back on the job on Monday morning, 24 April.
For the past month, CUPE had been calling for a takeover of the agency by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services in light of what the union called "CAS negotiators’ unwillingness to commit to an arbitrated settlement of the dispute".
CUPE, provincial mediators, and the provincial government were all in agreement about the need to resolve outstanding issues and reach a new collective agreement through binding arbitration.
“Throughout the four months of this lockout, CUPE members have always had two goals in their sights: reaching a fair collective agreement for unionized workers at Nipissing and Parry Sound CAS and restoring high-quality child protection services in the region,” said CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn.
“After nearly a year of throwing up needless obstacles to bargaining and after months spent depriving northern communities of the child welfare services they deserve, the agency has finally relented and – workers hope – has decided to commit itself to those goals too.
“As our members return to the jobs that they love, we’ll continue supporting them to ensure they can do so in a way that respects their skills and their commitment to their communities,” Hahn concluded.
“CUPE members are thrilled that their solidarity paid off and at the prospect of returning to work on Monday. It has been a grueling four months on the picket line, but we couldn’t have made it through without the support we had from the community, from our union, and from other union activists, or without the incredible strength and solidarity of our members,” said Debbie Hill, president of CUPE 2049, which represents workers at Nipissing and Parry Sound CAS.
Hill called it "a win for everyone"..