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Children’s Aid Society workers in Ottawa set to walk off the job starting Monday

Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa (CAS) workers are set to strike Monday morning after bargaining between officials and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) broke down on Saturday.

The agency, which hosts child welfare services, including fostering and adoption, will experience a full disruption of those services while the picket line is in place.

OPSEU Local 454 President Michele Thorn works as an adoption worker with CAS. She says nine months of bargaining led to a breaking point when it was revealed that an already dwindling work force would face further cuts.

“The employer has already told us they’re planning on laying off dozens of workers right now, and we are already crumbling under workload pressures,” Thorn told CTV News on Sunday.

The problem, she says, lays with a lack of funding and resources from the province. Meanwhile, workers are being asked to take on more kids with complex needs.

“Workers are crying in their cars, people are going on burnout leave, people have been quitting,” Thorn said.

In a rare team-up, the union and CAS are both calling on the province for more staff and more funding. The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

In a recent statement to CTV News, the province says it’s “redesigning the child welfare system to focus on high-quality services that prioritize safety, are culturally appropriate and are responsive to the needs of children, youth and families.”

It goes on to say the ministry has “increased funding by approximately $14 million for child protection services.”

Union officials say they remain skeptical.

“They talk about redesigns, but we haven’t seen any evidence of it,” said Thorn. “All we actually see are more expectations, more standards, more rules without any funding to go with it.”

The union states it is prepared to strike until a deal is reached that excludes any and all layoffs.

CTV News reached out to the Children’s Aid Society for comment on Monday’s planned strike, but did not hear back before deadline.

The picket line is expected to start at 8 a.m. with no set date to return to the bargaining table.

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