TORONTO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--For years, workers at Jewish Family and Child Service (JF&CS) of Greater Toronto watched their counterparts at other child protection agencies leapfrog them in terms of wages and workload protections. Now, with an overwhelming show of solidarity, they are prepared to fight back.
Eighty-eight members – 88% of the membership – voted in favour of job action, delivering a resounding strike mandate of 85%.
“We want to be delivering services to the children and families who depend on us, especially now with the Jewish community in Toronto in crisis, but management forced us into this position,” said Jo-Anne Raso, a family services poverty reduction worker with more than four decades at the agency and president of CUPE 265. “They dragged their heels on negotiations, they offered us pennies that would leave us further behind, and then they threatened to lock us out. They want to add a labour crisis to the trauma the families we support are dealing with, but we know that Toronto’s Jewish community stands with us and believes in our services.”
Workers at JF&CS provide programs to increase safety, reduce the effects of poverty, and improve health and wellness for families in Toronto’s Jewish community. Yet despite the similarities in their work, they earn on average $10,000 less per year than workers at the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto. They also lack the workload language others have that helps protect against burnout and ensures workers have the time and resources they need to focus on each case.
This disparity is felt not only by workers – many of whom struggle to pay rent and afford food amidst the increasing cost of living – but by community members who rely on the agency for critical supports.
“Workers can’t keep up with the cases. We’re pushed to extremes, wearing ourselves thin, absorbing so much vicarious trauma that many of us end up on medical leave,” said Raso. “And management has no plan, so the cases just pile up on other workers, starting the whole cycle over.”
With substandard wages and no case caps, workers have been leaving the agency for years – but management has remained in denial, leading to today’s acute staffing crisis.
“Domestic violence cases can sit unassigned for months while case managers who support Holocaust survivors have crushing workloads,” said Raso. “These are some of our most in need, most vulnerable cases. But we just don’t have the resources to dedicate to them.”
Management will be in a position to legally lock members out by October 27, the final scheduled date of conciliation. Members are hopeful this strong show of solidarity encourages management to return to the table with the earnest intention of investing in workers to better deliver community services.