Community social services workers serve strike notice

News release

Joint release of BCGEU, CUPE, HEU and HSA

The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Hospital Employees' Union and Health Sciences Association today served strike notice on behalf of more than 10,000 community social services workers. Job action will commence province-wide on Monday, March 8.

"It is regrettable that on International Women's Day, March 8, when we should be celebrating the gains that women have made in the workplace, over 10,000 community social services workers, who are mostly women, are forced to go on strike in an effort to end wage and benefit discrimination for workers in this sector," said Cliff Andstein, chief negotiator for the BCGEU.

Barry O'Neill, President of CUPE BC, said the government's refusal to address the wage gap has left the workers with no other choice but to take job action.

"Community social services workers care for and work with the most vulnerable members of our society, including very young children and adults who have physical or developmental disabilities. The last thing our members want to do is disrupt the programs and services that thousand of families rely on every day. But like all workers, they deserve fair treatment at the bargaining table," O'Neill said.

Marilynn Rust, who chairs the HEU community social services bargaining committee, said after months of bargaining and still no agreement to end wage and benefit discrimination in this sector, community social services workers "have had enough."

"The government has failed to live up to its promises to community social services workers. We're left with no other choice but to take job action if that's what it takes to achieve fairness and justice at the bargaining table," Rust said.

HSA negotiator, Julio Trujillo, reiterated the unions' call for the government to give its negotiators, the Community Social Services Employers' Association (CSSEA), a mandate that addresses the wage and benefit inequities between community social services workers and other workers in the health sector and the provincial government.

"It's a matter of fairness that people doing similar work should be paid the same. But community social services workers earn less, have fewer health benefits, and most have no pension plans. It's time to end this discrimination," Trujillo said.

In addition to job action, community social services workers will also hold rallies around the province on March 8 and 9.

Community social services workers are employed in four sectors: community living, family and children's services, services to women, and child care. They work with people who have physical or developmental disabilities in group homes, vocational programs, adult day care and child care centres. They provide occupational therapy, day programs, outreach, and help parents with disabilities look after their children. The broad sector includes transition house workers, counsellors, youth workers, speech therapists, special needs pre-school teachers, infant development consultants, and addiction counsellors.