Chatham – Local 148 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents workers at Chatham-Kent Children’s Services, is fighting employer plans to lay off approximately 30 full- and part-time staff members, or about 20 per cent of the 150 workers with the agency.
“These layoffs are completely unnecessary and utterly arbitrary,” said Local 148 vice-president Candice Copeland. “Some of these workers have three decades or more of experience. The only reason the employer will give is that they don’t have a child and youth worker (CYW) diploma.”
The employer announced that, effective October 27, they were eliminating the supportive foster care, family support, and supervised access classifications and creating a new classification called Child and Family Well-Being Workers, which requires a CYW diploma. Only family support workers are being rolled into the new classification, just one of whom at Chatham-Kent Children’s Services has a CYW diploma.
The layoffs come as the agency loses nine full-time and at least 12 part-time positions in prevention services as a result of funding for Ontario Early Years services being shifted to the municipality. Copeland described the layoffs as a “double whammy.”
“We knew the change in funding was coming,” she said, “but the employer pulled the rug out from under us in terms of the reclassification. At no time had they said that a CYW diploma would become a prerequisite for the job – even for those already employed. These layoffs, in terms of requiring a specific academic credential after the fact, are without precedent in Ontario.”
Copeland went on to warn that families would pay the biggest price. “The employer is replacing highly skilled, highly experienced, and highly invested staff – experts in the field who know their clients and the community. This will inevitably have an adverse impact on the children and parents we serve.”
“I don’t know what’s got into this employer,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU. “Telling employees they need more credentials is one thing. Giving them no opportunity to get them is quite another. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a shameful miscarriage of natural justice.
“The employer refuses to have a forthright discussion about what’s really behind the reclassification – and what can be done to avoid these completely unnecessary job losses. They’ve created trauma and chaos for no good reason that I can see. I call on the Premier to halt these needless layoffs.”
For more information: Candice Copeland, 519-809-0656