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UPDATED: Children's Aid talks break down...again

Both sides accuse each other of causing the breakdown.
children's aid locked out workers 3 turl 2017
Locked out Children's Aid society picket outside the McIntyre St. office. Photo by Jeff Turl.

The latest round of talks between the local Children's Aid Society and its locked-out workers have broken off after three days of negotiations.

Society Executive Director Gisèle Hébert, in a news release, expressed disappointment at the end of the new round of negotiations saying that  CUPE 2049 rejected a new CAS offer on workload management that matched a recent settlement between Peel CAS and its employees.

Hebert pointed out that, in a January 30 news release the workers praised the provincial arbitrator’s decision on workload issues at the Peel CAS, calling the decision “good news for workers at the Nipissing and Parry Sound Children’s Aid Society.”

See: Peel CAS decision good for local locked out workers says union

“Friday we presented a new offer that met with CUPE 2049’s stated wishes on their key issue of workload management and layoff language. In addition, our offer provided significant enhancements on our sick leave proposal, health spending accounts and signing bonuses for all employees," stated Hebert.

"We were disappointed to be met with, not only no concessions on our critical issue of the Sick Leave Benefit, but a request for enhancements. Based on CUPE 2049’s view of the Peel decision as ‘good news,’ we are confident that our offer merits further consideration. 'No concessions' stance however, is not bargaining.

"We have brought forth three offers to date, each with significant enhancements."

In an earlier statement, Hebert had said, "It's the issue of sick leave. I hate the word abused, but our staff essentially have 80 days a year sick leave with 100 per cent salary after five years service."

Debbie Hill, President of CUPE Local 2049 previously stated that workload is their key issue.

“Workload is the real reason we are out here now. It’s the driving force among our members,”

Now, Hebert says she has challenged the union to take the latest offers to their membership for a vote.

"That request was refused." Hébert added, “We should be welcoming our staff back to work on Monday, not shutting down the street for a rally.”

Meanwhile, in a separate news release CUPE workers expressed "anger and disappointment that Nipissing and Parry Sound children’s aid society is unwilling to agree to a deal that will keep children safe and end the lockout." 

It claims the breakdown came "despite the union’s willingness to withdraw several of its original proposals in the interest of getting locked-out child protection workers back on the job."

"Nipissing and Parry Sound CAS’s return to the bargaining table was accompanied once again by a list of proposals that, if implemented, would only erode services for children and youth and degrade working conditions for unionized employees," said the CUPE release.

The union’s negotiators were upset a weekend offer came with an expiry date. CUPE national representative Fran Bélanger responded, “We’re not buying and selling real estate here. Children’s aid workers have been locked out of their jobs for nearly two months. It’s insulting and foolhardy to restart negotiations by putting a time limit on an offer. It’s not like there’s one from another party coming later.”

The union says it made substantial changes to its earlier contract proposals and agreed to drop others in the hope of getting a deal, "However, the Children’s Aid Society didn’t show similar flexibility and insisted on including measures that would entrench inequality among workers, hurt morale and harm services. These include the elimination of province-wide provisions for children’s aid workers; and the introduction of more two-tier language that would mean future hires aren’t entitled to the same benefits as existing staff."

CUPE says it agreed to the CAS’s proposals for attendance management tools.

"Nipissing and Parry Sound CAS did offer to cut and paste a recent workload arbitration at Peel CAS into its contract with CUPE, but these workers cover an area with a huge geographical spread. We need workload language tailored to the issues in Nipissing and Parry Sound,” said Bélanger.

“The CAS asked the union to look at its warmed-over proposals ‘through a new lens,’” she continued. “But after eight weeks of a lockout, we don’t need a new lens and we aren’t wearing rose-coloured glasses.

“If the society looks at the union’s offer to settle – through any lens it wants – it will see a deal than can end the dispute. And our offer doesn’t come with an expiry date.”

No new talks are scheduled.

CUPE 2049, represents 140 workers at Nipissing and Parry Sound CAS. They were locked out just before Christmas, on Dec. 23rd.

Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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