Watch OPSEU/NUPGE's new video, Telling our stories: reimagining the safety net, about social services and social service workers in Ontario.
Toronto (10 March 2017) — On March 7, social services workers from across the province came together for a lobby day at Queen’s Park. The members of the Community Services Divisional Council (CSDC) of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) had one key message for MPPs: Stop treating social services like the poor cousin of health and education.
As Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU's First Vice-President, pointed out in his opening remarks, “Right now, social services are not a priority for policymakers, and the proof is in the funding. While health care and education are still vastly underfunded, it’s even worse for social services.”
Frontline social service workers advised MPPs of challenges they face
OPSEU/NUPGE members were able to share this message with a number of MPPs who attended the breakfast and met with them throughout the day. The political leaders listened to social services workers discuss what it’s like on the ground in a sector enduring constant cuts and fragmentation.
Members shared stories of working in a women’s shelter and having to turn away women looking for a place to sleep, or not having the funding to even provide a transit token to a client needing to get to an appointment. Other stories included watching children and youth slip through the cracks of an underfunded children’s aid system. The list of stories was endless, and the impact they had on the MPPs was clear.
OPSEU/NUPGE members feel lobby influenced politicians
OPSEU/NUPGE member Kelly Holmes felt the lobby was worthwhile. “I really enjoyed the whole experience at the lobby day,” she said. “I spoke to some MPPs who seemed to be genuinely engaged and cared about what I was advocating for.”
Rachelle Lacoste, from Local 666, felt the same way: “I left feeling energized and grateful for the opportunity to advocate for social services.”
More work to be done
While the day was overall a positive experience, it was nevertheless clear that some work still needs to be done in bringing the plight of Ontario’s social services sector to the attention of our political leaders.
“I was concerned about how many MPPs didn’t know too much about the youth in corrections portion of the new Child and Family Services Act, or that us youth justice workers in the broader public service don’t have WSIB coverage,” Leonard Mancini of Local 216 said. “But they heard our concerns and agreed that something has to change.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE