Pembroke -- A crowd of worried and concerned Renfrew County residents and advocates joined OPSEU/SEFPO and local labour council representatives on May 26 in calling out Family and Children's Services of Renfrew County for issuing layoffs to 14 frontline child protection workers.
The action was immediately condemned by the union as reckless and a threat to the well-being of children, youth, adults and families.
"We're understaffed as it is, given the complexities of the work, meaning our current caseloads are barely manageable," said Local 459 President Nicole Dennison. "Meanwhile, the ratio of 31 management and non-union support staff to our 112 union members remains disturbing. The employer refuses even to discuss reducing management."
"They've known since last October there was going to be a budget shortfall but did nothing about it for months – and now they're cutting frontline staff," she added. "It's the absolute worst thing they could do. Kids are going to fall through the cracks."
Child and Family Services currently employs 112 unionized frontline staff, both Child Welfare and Developmental Services, to service a high number of families who experience varying levels of social marginalization in the area.
"This decision will cause unconscionable harm on some of the most vulnerable residents in Renfrew County," said J.P. Hornick, President of OPSEU/SEFPO. "Our committed and compassionate members are already up to their ears in caseloads. There's just no way remaining staff can shoulder the additional burden.
"The Minister of Children, Community and Social Services has to step up immediately and fix this situation."
OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Laurie Nancekivell, who also belongs to this sector, noted that from a cost-savings point of view the layoffs are short-sighted and counterproductive.
"Study after study has conclusively demonstrated that cutting social services saves a little in the beginning – but costs vastly more down the line in terms of poverty, health care and crime.
"Furthermore, there's been a total lack of transparency on why the cupboard is bare," Ms. Nancekivell continued. "And the people of Renfrew County deserve to know why."
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader