Community social services workers have voted in favour of job action, the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) announced July 23. Locally, providers are predicting a continuation of services.
Staff at the two Sunshine Coast Community Services transition houses are members of BCGEU, representing approximately 15 of the group’s 100 employees.
“We’re here to have an uninterrupted 24-hour access service and that will continue through any kind of job action situation, if it does come to that,” advised executive director Vicki Dobbyn. “We’re hopeful that a fair settlement will be reached, but that also is out of our hands as well.”
The transition houses are considered essential services.
The union’s president, Darryl Walker, said employees had handed their bargaining association “the strong strike mandate it needs,” on July 23.
According to the union, general service membership voted 85 per cent in favour of strike action while members of community living services rang in at 90 per cent support.
The BCGEU said that negotiations between the government and its 15,000 community social services workers had broken down in early June.
The union claimed that its social services workers were “the lowest paid workers in the broad public sector.”
Social service workers are responsible for assisting community members with developmental or physical disabilities, in addition to working with women, children, families and First Nations.
The issues highlighted by the union included wages, benefits, sick leave and reimbursable expenses.
On July 23, CUPE BC issued a statement that was virtually identical to the BCGEU’s release, with the quotes swapped out for CUPE representatives.
Both called for a “fair and reasonable deal,” arguing that employee remuneration had fallen behind.
Glen McClughan, executive director of the Sunshine Coast Association for Community Living, was also optimistic that the situation would be resolved without interruptions locally.
“Our essential service levels have been set. Depending on the length of the strike action, some of our excluded staff, including myself, will be performing some duties that would normally be bargaining unit work,” he explained. “I don’t think you’ll see much disruption of service. It will be very insignificant, I would hope.”
According to the BCGEU, an Aboriginal services bargaining committee was set to be meeting with employers “in the coming weeks.
“If no agreement can be reached, a strike vote for those members will likely follow,” their release added.
Unions representing 15,000 employees in the sector bargain through the Community Social Services Bargaining Association or CSSBA.
The Community Social Service Employers’ Association, or CSSEA, represents the province’s 220 social service agencies.