Locked out CUPE Local 2049 workers marched down Main Street on their way to city hall for a rally earlier today, asking for a deal from the Children’s Aid Society. Before the rally, CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn called on the Minister of Children and Youth Services, Michael Coteau to get involved in the labour dispute. Hahn says they are asking Coteau to take over the agency, dissolve the board of directors and end the current lockout. Hahn says the law allows for the minister to take over agencies when they believe there are problems with service delivery. When asked about whether the ministry could take over the agency, Hahn says they have done it before but not during bargaining. Hahn says there are only 10 replacement workers at the CAS right now, doing the work of 140 members and as a result concerns about service delivery have been made public.
At the rally in front of city hall, Hahn addressed the crowd and warned Coteau that should anything bad happen from this day forward, it would be on his head. Talks between the two sides broke down yesterday, after a full day of negotiations with the help of provincial conciliators. Members from the union were critical of remarks made by Executive Director Gisele Hebert and Interim CAS Board of Directors President John Stopper to the media recently. The claims from the CAS point of view is CUPE has been unwilling to concede some areas of concern for them.
Local 2049 President Debbie Hill was at the meeting between the two sides, and told a different story. She says they came with alternative proposals, and so did the Ministry of Labour. Hill says the employer flat out said no, and made no movement on their side. She described the sick leave issue, which has been one of the sticking points for the CAS, smoke and mirrors. Hill also mentioned something that hasn’t been brought up publicly before, that some members are now questioning how much money is being saved by the lockout. She mentioned a deficit of nearly $3-million at the CAS. Hill says she isn’t making any sort of accusation, it’s just something she has heard from people concerned that’s the real issue here.