Sudbury

Children's aid lockout in North Bay area stretches into fourth month

Children's aid workers in the North Bay area have been walking a picket line for three months now. And while the two sides are talking, they don't agree on how much progress they've made.

140 children's aid workers have walked picketline since just before Christmas

140 children's aid workers in the North Bay area have been locked out for over three months now. (Facebook)

Children's aid workers in the North Bay area have been walking a picket line for three months now.

And while the two sides are talking, they don't agree on how much progress they've made.

"From our position all outstanding issues are very close to resolved or resolved," says Gisele Hebert, the executive director of the Children's Aid Society of the District of Nipissing and Parry Sound.

But Debbie Hill, who represents the 140 locked out workers as president of CUPE Local 2049, says the main issues of workload (which the union says is unreasonable) and sick time (which the agency says is used more than most children's aid societies in the province) remain on the table.

"Unfortunately, we have made progress, but nothing has been agreed to," says Hill.

The two sides also disagree about how a picketline protocol was reached last week, with the CAS saying it obtained a court injunction to settle "serious" issues on the picketline, while the union says both sides agreed to the new rules.

'If anything they're more committed at month three than they were at day one.'

The lockout began shortly before Christmas after the two sides could not reach an agreement.

Hill says it's been a long, cold winter on the picketline and it has been financially and emotionally draining for her members.

"If anything they're more committed at month three than they were at day one," she says.

Hill says her members have been upset that the society has hired replacement workers to do their jobs during the lockout.

"We have a lot of calls and messages and people coming to the line who are expressing concern about going weeks without getting calls back from the replacement workers or not having their needs met," says Hill.

But Hebert says while there were some service delays early on, she's proud at how the 31 managers and about 10 "helpers" have served the vulnerable children and families of Nipissing and Parry Sound.

"I have absolutely no concerns regarding the level of service we're providing to clients. Still, having said that, I really want our staff back to work," says Hebert.

"We will do what we need to do to heal, but a lot has happened."

That healing will have to begin at the bargaining table.

The two sides will be back there on Thursday.