The Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa (CAS) workers continued their strike into Tuesday.

CAS is part of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). They are asking the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services to agree to not make any more layoffs and for better wages. 

Loud music, whistles and honks could be heard on Telesat Crescent, where the strike continued into its second day. More picketers could be seen at the intersection of Blair and Meadowbrook. 

Parties failed to reach a collective agreement after nine months of bargaining, and when it came time for a strike vote in March, 85 per cent voted in favour. 

Michele Thorn is an adoption worker and local union president of OPSEU 454. She said CAS used to have over 400 workers. Now they have 320, and the provincial government has said they intend to lay off another 20.

Thorn said that the reduction in staff has happened gradually. 

“They’ve done it more by attrition. People have left and they haven’t replaced them.”

According to Thorn, the ministry is controlling their budget deficit by making cuts.

“The funding from the ministry keeps decreasing, but they keep adding expectations…so people are expected to do more with less workers to do it.”

Thorn said CAS has reduced the number of children in care by 30 per cent in the past five years. Because of this decrease, the ministry reduced funding, which she said has led to these deficits.

“The bargaining team for the union has been waiting for the employer to get back to us. We’ve had no communication from them, and they know we’re waiting.”

She highlighted the stress that CAS workers are already experiencing, and added that it will only get worse if more people are laid off. 

“Workers are already crumbling. After they’re done for the day they have no energy left for their own families, they often miss time with their own families because they’re doing overtime to try to keep up.”

This has led to a lower quality of service for people who rely on CAS services.

“They don’t have time. They’re doing bare bones work, cutting corners, they’re late getting things done, they have a list of things they have to do.”

Thorn said the problem is bigger than CAS. 

“They’re not funding other social services properly. So our families that we work with don’t have resources because there’s just not enough to go around. We used to be able to connect families with resources, and now we’re struggling even to do that.”

The problem is compounding as workers struggle to keep up with increased demand due to reduced staff. 

“We have workers.. talking about going on leave. They’re burning out but they don’t want to leave because they know that when they do, they’re going to leave their work behind for people who are also already struggling.”

Thorn said the strike was CAS’ last resort. 

Julia Dundas is a child and youth councillor for CAS. She said she is concerned about the people she works with.

“It’s really upsetting to be on strike because we’d much rather be working with our children and our families. I’m really worried about my families and my kids.”

“We need more funding. We need to be able to help out our kids and our families. They’re really suffering right now.”

Thorn said CAS workers find meaning in their work and they want to be able to give the best service they can to the community. 

“People love their jobs. They love the work that they can do when they’re able to do it.”