As community social services negotiations are set to resume this week, the employer association has finally responded to a request to discuss essential services. Your unions asked for preliminary discussions in late September after the first negotiating session in nearly three months ended with no progress. The BC Liberal provincial government's Community Social Services Employers' Association (CSSEA) failed to respond to two letters from the union bargaining association until a day after a set deadline. The unions have now filed the request with the BC Labour Relations Board. CSSEA has not yet confirmed a date for the initial meeting.
'Essential services' is the labour relations term to describe which services must be maintained during a strike or lockout by both employees and employers. Typically, services that are vital to protecting the health and safety of vulnerable people are considered essential, for example.
In contrast to the employers' unexplained four-week silence on the issue, our position is proactive and responsible. Essential service discussions are complicated and time-consuming. We do not want to leave important decisions to the tense and difficult circumstances immediately preceding a dispute. CSSEA’s delay in meeting to discuss essential services indicates they do not understand that negotiations are in serious danger of faltering. Employers continue to refuse to address our key issues: employment security during a time of cutbacks and lay-offs, healthy and safe workplaces, and fair work practices.
Some employers may attempt to discuss essential services with members and activists. Stewards should contact their Local immediately if this happens and refuse to engage with management on this issue until receiving direction from their union. There are established guidelines that govern the level of service that we are required to provide in the event of job action that allow for a balance between effective withdrawal of service, while still providing for the health and safety of clients and residents.
Keep checking cupe.bc.ca for updates.