Wednesday, November 6 is Community Social Service (CSS) Worker Appreciation Day, and in addition to showing gratitude to those workers who provide vital services across British Columbia, we should also reflect on how society treats our most vulnerable citizens and their support workers.
There are more than 10,000 unionized community-based service workers in BC and CUPE BC is proud to represent 2,500 of them. Our CSS members are there when a crisis arises to provide supports, services, or the skills people need to deal with life’s challenges.
Technically our members’ employers are the social service organizations founded to meet needs identified by the community (eg. the Okanagan Boys and Girls Club), but these organizations could not survive without funding from the provincial government. Thus BC government funding policies are at the centre of community social service delivery.
Despite our CSS members’ role in delivering indispensible services to British Columbians experiencing difficult periods, the BC government has slowly starved social service organizations over the last decade.
Underfunding has meant that hundreds of organizations cannot keep adequate staff levels. For the staff they can afford, CSS workers are among the lowest paid public sector workers in Canada. Many of our members have no choice but to work another job simply to make ends meet.
Inadequate funding levels have also contributed to growing waitlists for services.
To make matters worse, this summer the BC government reneged on a promise for critical bridge funding to community service organizations to support existing funding commitments stemming from the 2012-2014 provincial settlement.
Cancelling the bridge funding means one thing: fewer services for those in need.
The BC Liberals cannot be genuinely interested in the welfare of average British Columbians while starving the services on which they rely every day in times of need. The quality of life for our vulnerable community members and well-funded community services go hand-in-hand.
I am inspired by the dedication shown by our CSS members under these very difficult (government-driven) employment circumstances. I encourage Premier Christy Clark to show these workers and the communities they service the respect they deserve by increasing funding and making a commitment to great community social services.
CUPE BC PresidentCOPE 491