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Kids Help Phone needs to move money to the front line, union says


Toronto – Canada’s leading counselling service for children and youth in crisis needs to provide more financial support to its frontline staff, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union says.

Counsellors working at Kids Help Phone in Ontario head back to the bargaining table with their employer on May 18 with a single clear message: top quality service means recognizing that without counsellors, there is no service.

“We began bargaining in September, and having met over ten times already, it's safe to say that this has been a slow process,” said Duane Singh, chair of the bargaining team for counsellors in OPSEU Local 515. “Our contract expired over a year ago and our wages have been falling relative to inflation for over four years.

“Counsellors want to keep the focus on the kids at the other end of the line – it’s what we’re passionate about – but it gets harder and harder to do that when people are worried about providing for their own families.”

OPSEU represents 21 full-time and 31 part-time/relief counsellors at Kids Help Phone. They counsel youth in English and in French, by phone and through Live Chat in real time. Counsellors help young people struggling with bullying, depression, and other problems; suicide prevention is an important part of their work. They also refer youth to programs and services in their communities, including mental health services, sexual health services, shelters, legal support, LGBTQ services, and culturally relevant and ethno-specific services.

In March 2016, Local 515 members at Kids Help Phone voted 78 per cent in favour of strike action if that is what is required to win a contract that meets their needs. No strike deadline has been set.

“Kids Help Phone is Canada's only 24/7 professional counselling service for kids and youth that's totally confidential and anonymous, and the staff who make it work deserve all the support we, as a society, can give them,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Their union is behind them 100 per cent and I can guarantee their employer that we will give these members all the support they need to get a fair contract.”

For more information: Duane Singh 647-202-9661

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