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Joan Jessome on Community Services job cuts in rural Nova Scotia - "It's only the beginning"

by Robert Devet

Joan Jessome, president of the NSGEU, fears that lay-offs of case workers in rural Nova Scotia are only the beginning. More of the same and additional program cuts are likely.  Here she is addressing the crowd during the 2013 International Day to Eradicate Poverty. Photo Robert Devet
Joan Jessome, president of the NSGEU, fears that lay-offs of case workers in rural Nova Scotia are only the beginning. More of the same and additional program cuts are likely. Here she is addressing the crowd during the 2013 International Day to Eradicate Poverty. Photo Robert Devet

(KJIPUKTUK), HALIFAX - Joan Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) says that this week's Community Services job cuts in Barrington and Guysborough are plain wrong.

“These are decent jobs. People live in the communities, they raise their children there, and now they are being told that they are no longer needed,” Jessome tells the Halifax Media Co-op.

Instead of helping people in rural Nova Scotia, they are destroying its foundation, which is the public service, she says.

Minister Joanne Bernard claims that work that laid-off staff left behind will not increase the workload of the remaining workers, says Jessome. Is she suggesting that the people who are being laid off had nothing to do?

The job cuts follow on the heels of the department's closure of the Sheet Harbour Community Services office last September, at the cost of two jobs in that community.

The NSGEU was told that the department is laying off five unionized members working in child welfare services in Barrington and six in Guysborough,

Ten of the eleven affected employees are child welfare workers. One of the workers in Barrington is an income assistance case worker.  The union says that two of the affected Barrington workers have been offered positions in Liverpool and Yarmouth. Community Services says that number is three.

Jessome doesn't buy the department's argument that numbers no longer warrant the positions and that the money is better spent elsewhere.

“You can be a bureaucrat behind a desk and crunch numbers all day, but none of that matters when you are dealing with a kid that has complicated family relationships, medical needs, education challenges, justice issues, social services needs, and you have all these parties involved,” she says.

“There used to be more of a mix between low need and high need in a social worker's case load. Now it is almost all high need,” she says.

A looming rather secretive program review has workers at Community Services even more concerned. Rumours are flying.

“We are hearing that Community Services is moving towards a call centre approach, we are hearing they want to reduce home visits. Our members have huge concerns about that,” she says.

Jessome, who has been public and vocal in her support of anti-poverty activism in the past, says that Community Services workers everywhere in Nova Scotia are stressed and unhappy.

“They are very concerned about cuts to programs,” she says. “They already see that they aren't able to meet the needs of their clients today. They feel that they are not able to do their job now, and that it is going to get worse.”

See also:

More Community Services job cuts in rural Nova Scotia

Community Services closes Sheet Harbour Office

Community Services embarks on mystery welfare reform project

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter  @DevetRobert

 

 


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