Talks between the unions representing BC's community social services workers and the employers association have broken off a little more than a week away from Christmas. The employers seem intent on playing the role of Grinch.
The lost year
Negotiations have dragged on for over 13 months. The collective agreement expired at the end of March this year although all terms and conditions – except the employment security provisions – continue to be in effect.
The employers' position has not significantly changed since discussions broke off almost exactly one year ago.
After one year, the employers’ position remains:
• No employment security or improvements to bumping and recall rights during a time of lay-offs and cuts
• No improvements to wages
• No improvements to benefits, including sick leave
• No improvements to reimbursable expenses like mileage so employees will continue to subsidize their employers
• No improvements to the way jobs are awarded to make the process fair and transparent
The employers' ultimatum today was to demand that workers take a modest improvement in harassment language in exchange for no changes to bumping and recall rights and job selections.
Less than zero
The government and employers' “zero-zero” mandate - absolutely no increased cost in the collective agreement for 2 years – is really less than zero for members. As the cost of living, including housing, food, the HST and Hydro, rises, workers fall behind.
The Community Social Services Bargaining Association (CCSBA) remains committed to advancing our mandate from members – real and significant improvements and progress toward regaining what we have lost over the last 10 years. The CSSBA will be consulting members
In the meantime, unions have advised employers and the federal government that approvals for summer student employment programs will be withheld given the circumstances.
Members will have their say
Membership meetings are planned for early January and the CSSBA will be seeking direction from members. Watch for notices on union bulletin boards and website.
The employers have also now resorted to a new tactic, a form of nuisance legal proceedings. Similar to so-called SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits to Avoid Public Participation), this tactic seeks to intimidate union activists.
The Community Social Services Employers’ Association represents 220 agencies across the province. The CSSBA represents over 15,000 workers in nine unions. CUPE represents approximately 2,500 workers in B.C.'s Community Social Services sector.