The latest round of negotiations between the Nipissing and Parry Sound Children’s Aid Society and CUPE Local 2049 have ended and still no agreement has been reached. Executive Director Gisèle Hébert says they hoped to make progress on their key issues, but that CUPE refused to consider the long term implications of the Sick Leave Benefit. She says they have made every effort to come to an agreement to get their employees back to work. Hebert says she thinks it was a travesty that the union refused to even consider what was put on the table. She says they were very disappointed they refused to take the society’s offer back to their membership. Hebert says they made a lot of concessions through the various rounds of bargaining, but they made it clear from the beginning that this was the critical issue. CAS Board President John Stopper was present for the negotiations, and said since the financial review, they have advocated for every one of their frontline staff and to date there has not been a single layoff. He says they want to keep their valued employees and get them back to work without further delay.
CUPE Social Services coordinator Bev Patchell led the union in bargaining talks last night. Patchell says by allowing the latest and best chance of a deal with workers to slip through their fingers, negotiators for CAS are increasing the likelihood of a tragedy among vulnerable children and youth. After weeks of activism by locked-out members of CUPE 2049, the union had suggested a return to the bargaining table in a bid to end the lockout that began almost 11 weeks ago. But talks broke down around 11:00pm last night, and CUPE described the society’s approach as “rigid”. Patchell says the union brought forward two different alternatives, hoping to resolve the labour dispute, but the society’s stance in bargaining remained the same. Patchell noted that every day on the picket line, locked-out child protection workers hear heartbreaking stories about the plight of families whose adoptions are in limbo.
Local 2049 President Debbie Hill says they know they have great support inside and outside the union for their proposals, because they ensure that they can keep children safe, but they recognize the society’s issues too. Hill says they prepared and presented an offer that addresses both parties’ concerns, and they did that in the hope of reaching an agreement that would end the lockout. Hill pointed out that Nipissing and Parry Sound CAS could have ended the lockout if its directors were the least bit interested in negotiating with them. But time after time, she says they have shown their preference is to make demands and ultimatums. Hill concluded by saying the union is now considering other strategies to bring an end to the lockout and they won’t be quiet about it anymore.