Talks break down in community social services bargaining, strike vote to be taken

Talks broke down yesterday between the provincial government, employers and the ten unions representing B.C.'s 15,000 community social services workers. The parties have been in negotiations since February to try and reach a collective agreement.

Wages, benefits and concessionary demands by the employer, including revisiting improvements gained in thelast round of bargaining are the outstanding issues.“We are asking for a fair and reasonable deal for the caring professionals that care and support adults withdevelopmental disabilities, youth at risk, and women fleeing abusive relationships and other vulnerable people in B.C.,” said James Cavalluzzo, chair of the multi-union bargaining committee. Community social serviceworkers are the lowest paid workers in the broader public sector, and they have not had a pay increase inthree years. With inflation, that equates to an effective pay cut of five percent.

Under the B.C. Liberal government’s “co-operative gains” mandate, wage and benefit improvements must befunded through increased efficiencies, but the community social services sector is too lean to generate savings to fund wages through cuts elsewhere.

The bargaining committee tabled alternative proposals on cost savings and efficiencies which were notconsidered. When bargaining on behalf of 25,000 direct government service workers, the B.C. Governmentand Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) presented concrete proposals to generate hundreds of millions ofdollars in new annual government revenues to pay for wage and benefit improvements across the broad publicsector, including Community Social Services. The government rejected these proposals.

Community social services workers provide a wide range of assistance to people of all ages, abilities andbackgrounds, including providing child care for families, employment and housing support for people withdevelopmental disabilities, specialized services for immigrants, support for women dealing with violence,substance abuse and addiction-related services, and much more.

Community social service workers in Aboriginal Services currently remain at the bargaining table.

The Community Social Services Bargaining Association (CSSBA) is the multi-union bargaining committeefor BC's unionized community social service workers. The CSSBA includes ten unions with a combinedmembership of about 15,000. The BCGEU is the largest union in the community social services sector,representing about two-thirds of workers. CUPE, HEU, HSA are the next largest followed by UFCW, CSWU,USW, SEIU and CLAC.

The provincial government's Community Social Services Employers’ Association (CSSEA) represents 220 agencies in the sector.

For more information, contact: Oliver Rohlfs, BCGEU Communications, (604) 291 9611 / (778) 318 9164

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