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Nicholson Fired

November 17, 2011 permalink

The ongoing strike at Kawartha-Haliburton children's aid has led to the suspension of its executive director Hugh Nicholson. His replacement is Suzanne Geoffrion, former executive director of the Lanark children's aid society. The staff has been picketing since October 17.



Hugh Nicholson dropped as executive director of strikebound children's aid society

Hugh Nicholson
Hugh Nicholson was dropped Wednesday night as executive director of the Kawartha-Haliburton Children's Aid Society as a month-long strike by frontline workers at the agency continues. He had been scheduled to retire Dec. 31.
CLIFFORD SKARSTEDT Examiner file photo

The Kawartha-Haliburton Children's Aid Society has dumped Hugh Nicholson as the agency's executive director in the midst of a bitter strike by 130 workers including frontline workers and accountants.

The agency's directors decided during Wednesday night's board meeting to put Nicholson on administrative leave until Dec. 31 — the date of his planned retirement.

Board chairman Tim McLaren said in light of the challenges of the strike, which started Oct. 17, the agency and community would be best served with new leadership although he wouldn't elaborate why.

The interim leader is Suzanne Geoffrion who has 30 years experience in the child protection sector, most recently serving as executive director of the Lanark Children's Aid Society.

A new permanent executive director is expected to be hired in the new year.

Nicholson, 64, has served as the local executive director since 2003 and said Wednesday's decision was a surprise.

"It was in some respects a difference of opinion — a difference of priorities about how to proceed and handle the strike," Nicholson told The Examiner.

He said he was planning to retire in December anyways, so he said it may not be such a bad thing.

"If it means staff get back to work and there are high quality of services for children, then I'm all for it," Nicholson said.

Jennifer Smith, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 334, said she hadn't heard the news of Nicholson's departure until contacted by The Examiner on Wednesday night.

"Wow, let's get back to the table and back to the business that we do best and that's not picketing," Smith said. "I can tell you we all miss our jobs."

Smith said the management style of senior directors, including Nicholson, was "oppressive."

"It created significant barriers to the quality of work we do and the inter-relations of the agency," she said. "This needs to change. I hope the new director can create a change in this area."

Striking workers have argued for better working conditions, including reduced caseloads and better hours.

Meanwhile, Nicholson's job officially ended Wednesday although he said he has some personal belongings, including a painting created by his wife and some personal photos, that he still must pick up from the Chemong Rd. office.

Nicholson said he was glad to work with the management staff members who have recently been working "around the clock" since the strike.

"They're a great group of people to work with," he said.

He said he plans to take life easy and enjoy time with his family and friends — something he said he hasn't been able to do with the pressure of the strike.

Source: Peterborough Examiner