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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Powers In The Children's Aid Society Across Ontario Are Cashing In While The Children Continue To Suffer

You can bet this is a problem not only in London Ontario but all across Ontario!

CAS UNION'S CHARGE\

Union members are not allowed to ask questions



By Norman DeBono, The London Free Press
Executives at London’s child welfare agency have enjoyed wage hikes — some, more than $20,000 and $30,000 in a single year — as its front-line workers face massive job cuts and frozen pay, their union charges.
The London and Middlesex Children’s Aid Society has seen its list of managers on Ontario’s list of public servants paid $100,000 or more grow to 22 in 2012 from 19 the year before, and all made more money than the year before at a time of budget cuts.
Adding fuel to the fire is that executive director Janet Fitzgerald is Ontario’s highest-paid child welfare agency boss. She received a $26,000 hike in one year, pushing her pay to $212,717 — more than $7,000 higher than the salary of the Toronto chief executive director.
That’s angered staff, vowing a campaign to protest against the spending, said Karen Cudmore of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).
“Management has not been touched” by the agency’s budget cuts, said Cudmore, president of OPSEU Local 116.
“This is a huge issue, an absolutely huge issue. We have taken zero (% pay increases) for three years. Our workload is out of control. We have members on stress leave with family issues and we seem to be adding managers,” she said.
The issue has hit a crisis point at the CAS, where more than 40 staff — about 10% of its total workforce — will be laid off in November, as its $70-million budget is cut to $55 million by 2018. Some $4.6 million will be chopped this year.
“We have raised this several times,” Cudmore said of concerns over CAS spending.
“Our members are very upset about the spending in-house,” Cudmore said. “The board needs to be held accountable.”
CAS executive director Janet Fitzgerald said many of the increases can be attributed to managers taking vacation pay instead of time off.
She said she isn’t taking a wage increase now, and attributed her increase to wage hikes last year and cashing in vacation pay.
But that doesn’t wash with Cudmore, who questions why managers are allowed to cash out vacation, a practice few agencies and businesses allow.
“They can say they are taking vacation pay, but $26,000?” she asked of Fitzgerald’s single-year increase. “How much vacation does she get?”
The union will take protests to future board meetings, she added.
But the former board chair from 2011 to 2012, when the pay increases occurred, defended the hikes as well spent for good managers.
“It’s all about the children and you can be penny wise and pound foolish,” said Al Bannister.
“If you don’t have good people running the organization, things can fall apart pretty quickly. When you are talking about children’s lives, you need leadership.”
He pointed to other public-sector workers making comparable wages, saying CAS salaries aren’t out of line.
“If you start cutting at the top, you fragment the whole operation. Being a manager is a very high-stress occupation.”
But executive wages aren’t the union’s only concern. It also takes issues with other CAS costs — such as moving offices between Richmond Row and Dundas St., and back again, and restructuring — as a waste of money.
Cudmore said she’s attended board meetings, but not been allowed to speak and question why restructuring talks were held behind closed doors.
“In the past, union officials have been allowed to ask questions. But we are no longer allowed to do that. Now it’s all in secret,” she said.
An agency facing severe budget cuts and layoffs needs to look at all options, including management salaries, said NDP London-Fanshawe MPP Teresa Armstrong.
“There is no one easy solution to this,” she said. “Management should look at their financial picture, as well, to maintain front-line services.”
Cudmore said she believes children would be better served by more front-line staff, which will be cut, and some of those jobs could be saved with restraint at the management level.
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NEW ON THE SUNSHINE LIST
Local CAS staff who cracked Ontario’s $100,000+ list in 2012:
  • Supervisor: $103,783
  • Program manager: $121,698
  • Program manager: $104,953
  • Program manager: $100,705
  • Counsel, legal services: $106,263
Executive directors’ pay
  • $212,717: Janet Fitzgerald, London-Middlesex CAS
  • $204,950: David Rivard, Toronto
  • $187,003: Barbara MacKinnon, Ottawa.
  • $162,338: Alison Scott, Waterloo
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