BURNABY—Community social services workers around the province have voted strongly in favour of job action to back their bargaining proposals. Members in General Services have voted 85 per cent in favour of strike action. Members in Community Living Services voted 90 per cent in favour.
“This sends a clear message to the provincial government that a fair and reasonable settlement is long overdue. Our members deserve a fair deal and these results show that they’re prepared to stand up and fight for it,” says CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill.
Negotiations broke down in early June between the provincial government, employers and the 10 unions representing B.C.’s 15,000 community social services workers. Community social service workers provide services to men and women, children and families, youth, people with physical or developmental disabilities and First Nations in towns across British Columbia. They are the lowest paid workers in the broad public sector.
Outstanding issues include: wages, benefits, sick leave and reimbursable expenses. The employer was also demanding concessions and wanted to remove improvements negotiated in the last round of bargaining.
“For the past ten years, this provincial government has done nothing to recognize the important work that our members do,” says CUPE’s community social services coordinator Cheryl Colborne. “Our members are caring professionals, but the government has allowed them to fall behind, to the point that many cannot make ends meet. A fair and reasonable deal is one that would recognize the critical services our members provide.”
The Community Social Services Bargaining Association (CSSBA) is the multi-union bargaining committee for B.C.’s unionized community social service workers. The CSSBA includes ten unions with a combined membership of about 15,000. The BCGEU is the largest union in the sector, representing about two-thirds of workers. CUPE is the next largest, with 2,500 workers, followed by HEU, HSA, UFCW, CSWU, USW, SEIU and CLAC. The provincial government’s Community Social Services Employers’ Association (CSSEA) represents 220 agencies in the sector.