THUNDER BAY – A rally by striking CEP members against Dilico is on this morning. The workers are stating that the caseloads they face is generating massive stress on them. The CEP is joined in their strike efforts by CUPE. The CEP is putting the blame on the Ontario Government. “We are here today to support our sisters and brothers at Dilico in their struggle for a fair contract”, said Marie Dean, President of CUPE Local 87 in Thunder Bay. “But this is not just a problem at Dilico, or here in the Thunder Bay area. This is a problem in every community across Ontario”, Dean added. “The failed austerity program of Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government has created increased pressures on workers to do more with less and brought cuts to services in every community. We stand together with you in your fight for fairness and for quality services for your community.”
Dilico Workers Supported by CUPE workers
In Ontario’s child welfare sector, severe cuts to front-line services and programs that protect at-risk children and families and a resultant increase in labour instability are directly linked to systemic provincial underfunding. For this year alone, a $50.6 million provincial shortfall is forcing cuts to staff and increases in workloads across agencies, putting at risk the ability of agencies to meet their mandate to protect kids.
Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) joined striking Dilico Anishnabek Family Care workers on the picket line today in sounding an alarm bell about the impacts of provincial underfunding on child welfare.
“This situation of underfunding is especially challenging for aboriginal agencies like Dilico and Payukotayno: James and Hudson Bay Family Services, for example. Aboriginal agencies are suffering from insufficient resources for services. Insufficient resources mean impossible caseloads for workers. Governments cannot be seeking to shrink budgets at the expense of at-risk children and youth”, said Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam, the CUPE Ontario Chair of Social Services.
Families Remain on the Fringes
Families continue to be impacted by the strike action. There are many families who, unless there is court ordered visitation in place remain unable to visit their children. Child and family advocates are stating that is an important part of the process of re-unifying families. Some advocates are suggesting the the management and the workers have forgotten the families in this labour dispute. Reportedly families who are involved in issues with Dilico are planning more action of their own.
“One of the central issues at Dilico is staff workload”, added Poole-Cotnam. “This is a direct result of the cuts to funding and the resultant cuts to staff that are happening at child welfare agencies right across the province. Agencies need a process to gauge the complexity of caseloads and ensure service levels are maintained, so that workers have the time to deal effectively with families and children in crisis. Government needs to invest in staff to ensure service levels are maintained.”
This labour action should serve as a warning to Premier Kathleen Wynne. Unless adequate funding levels for agencies serving aboriginal communities are in place, and unless the province addresses workload issues across the sector, there will be more strikes like the one at Dilico.