Mar 07, 2011

Fairness, respect ‘long overdue’ for community social services workers

VANCOUVER—The thousands of community social services workers who make British Columbia a better place to live have waited long enough to achieve justice in the workplace, a mass labour rally was told here today.

“We need to see employment security, and seniority rights for lay-off and recall, as opposed to the employer’s idea of handpicking their favourites,” Patsy, a transition home worker from Trail, told a crowd of several hundred labour activists rallying outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

“Our members work with women who are escaping violence. We work in victims’ services with women who’ve been sexually assaulted. We’re also child care workers who provide day care. These are the people who provide safe spaces for your children so that you can go and earn a living.”

The BCGEU activist, noting that nine different unions are at the bargaining table for community social services, applauded CUPE’s large presence at the rally, as the union’s flags formed a sea of pink through the crowd.

The rally was held at the side entrance to the Hyatt Regency, where members of Local 40 are in a prolonged dispute with management. A Local 40 activist calling for reduced workload reported that the Hyatt, the majority of whose workers are women and immigrants, has one of the highest rates of workplace injury in the hotel industry.

Also addressing the rally was UFCW Local 1518, whose members in Maple Ridge have been on the picket lines for two years fighting Extra Foods’ demand for wage reductions. Companies like Loblaws, which owns Extra Foods, continue to squeeze employees' wages despite earning huge profits, a Local 1518 activist said.

Speaking after the rally, CUPE 1936 president Michael Lanier said that the BC Liberal government has run out of stalling tactics in its failure to reach an agreement with community social services workers. After a decade with no wage increases or benefit improvements, he said, B.C.’s lowest paid public employees deserve an agreement now.

“We’re due back at the bargaining table next week,” said Lanier. “We hope that the employer comes back with some solid, realistic proposals because we won’t be leaving the table until we get some solid, realistic gains for our members, our clients and our services.”

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