Stop putting vulnerable families last: striking community social service workers targeting B.C. Liberal convention

Striking community social service workers are heading to the B.C. Liberal convention in Whistler Friday morning, with a clear message to the government: stop putting vulnerable families last!

“The B.C. government has put vulnerable families last on its priority list. Since 2004, they have slashed $300 million in funding for programs that support the developmentally disabled, vulnerable women, at-risk youth, and children and infants in community-based programs across the province,” said B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) President Darryl Walker.

“We are headed to the B.C. Liberal convention to support the caring professionals dedicated to supporting vulnerable families at community-based not-for-profit agencies across the province,” said BCGEU Community Social Services Chair Patsy Harmston, who is a transition house worker. “The government is failing vulnerable families by putting services they depend upon at risk through constant cuts.”

Tomorrow’s striking workers are BCGEU members from two agencies in the Sea to Sky corridor that provide services to adults with developmental disabilities, childcare, and homeless outreach. There will be picket lines at Sea to Sky Community Services Society (38144 Second Avenue, Squamish) and at the Early Learning Centre (38073 Second Avenue, Squamish) all day tomorrow.

Workers from the North Shore Disabilities Resource Centre Association, which is represented by CUPE, will also be on strike and will be handing leaflets out to Seabus passengers in North Vancouver.

“Workers have faced a decade of declining wages, and many are leaving the profession or are taking multiple jobs to make ends meet,” said Harmston. In 2002, the starting wage for a residential care worker was $16.83. Today, it’s $15.54. That’s a wage loss of over 20 percent over a decade, after inflation.

Community social service workers have been in a position to strike as of October 16, and rotating strike action took place last week in Vancouver, Kamloops and Prince George.

BCGEU is the largest union representing B.C’s 15,000 community-based social service workers, followed by CUPE, HEU and HSA.

Community social services are not government social workers; they help and support the most vulnerable members of B.C.’s communities, including youth-at-risk, women fleeing violence, people with disabilities, immigrants, First Nations, and many others.

“The government must stop putting the squeeze on community social services, and offer a fair and reasonable wage for the workers who do the most with the least,” says Harmston.

The community social services strike information leaflet is available here.

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