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OPSEU demands Kinark Child and Family Services redeploy staff to frontlines instead of issuing unnecessary layoffs

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TORONTO – The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) is demanding Kinark Child & Family Services management obey the Ontario government’s direction to redeploy mental health workers to the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis, instead of using the pandemic as an excuse for unnecessary layoffs.

“This Employer’s actions are downright irresponsible,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Ontarians are in desperate need of mental health support during this pandemic, but they won’t get it from Kinark because it’s gone AWOL – absent without leadership.”

Thomas noted that Kinark’s CEO Cathy Paul is on the Sunshine List of top public sector salaries, earning $253,396 per year.

“You’d expect better leadership from someone who is being paid more than a quarter of a million dollars per year,” said Thomas. “It’s really surprising to see this kind of heartless decision even though Kinark is fully funded. So here’s the $253,000 question – where are those tax dollars intended for frontline workers going?”

In April, management told workers that Kinark was moving to provide mental health services virtually. OPSEU members in Barrie and Simcoe received training for this on April 21, only to be given layoff notices on April 24.  In her email to workers, Paul claimed that they were ‘unable to perform any of their regular job function because of the state of emergency.’ Kinark has since ignored requests from its staff, who are skilled in providing mental health support, to be redeployed to support their community.

OPSEU Local 355 President, Bobbie-Joe Arthurs, expressed frustration that Kinark’s management has refused to work collaboratively with the union and its members.

“Our community and clients need mental health services now more than ever,” said Arthurs. “This has placed emotional and financial strain on the very people who are best-equipped to offer support during this unsettling time. Other employers in the mental health sector have been able to protect jobs and redeploy staff – why not Kinark?”

OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer, Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida pointed out that besides Paul’s hefty salary, Kinark pays its directors and other senior managers well over $100,000 per year.

“Kinark’s leadership should think about reducing their gold-plated salaries instead of throwing their highly-skilled frontline workers under the bus,” said Almeida. “These managers should feel ashamed to look at themselves in the mirror.”

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For more information: OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931