Liberal threat to gut social services contract is "cowardly" say HEU, B.C. unions

Strong response promised if Campbell breaks pledge to honour signed agreements

HEU and other unions have reacted angrily to a leaked government document which shows the Campbell government is poised to introduce legislation to roll back the existing collective agreement covering 13,000 community social services workers, including more than 1,000 HEU members.

“This is a cowardly attack on workers and their clients — the most needy in our society,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “Community social services care givers have worked for too long in a low wage ghetto. They went on strike for 11 weeks to win a fair collective agreement in 1999 and to win higher wages, improved working conditions, employment security and better quality services for their clients,” Allnutt says.

Together with BCGEU and CUPE, Allnutt pledged that HEU would fight any effort to gut provisions of the signed agreement. “We're not going to let it happen, and we're already planning a joint campaign to ensure it doesn't,” he warned.

The social services collective agreement was achieved through negotiations led by respected arbitrator Don Munroe, and included important employment security and successorship protection for workers in a sector where stable, quality care for clients is impacted by the contract for the service tendering process.

“As far as we're concerned,” says Allnutt, “a deal is a deal. Government must respect signed agreements.” The HEU leader points out that before the election, Campbell made an explicit promise that he wouldn’t be ripping up signed agreements if he were elected premier. “Now he’s prepared to break it — it's a betrayal of public trust,” Allnutt says.

“The attack on social service workers is a clear sign that all HEU collective agreements may be targeted, and no HEU member is safe from the threat of rollbacks. Why is this happening? Because the Liberals want to destroy public services for British Columbians, and our contracts are barriers that prevent them from doing so.”

Meanwhile, more than 2,000 CUPE convention delegates representing public sector workers from across Canada voted unanimously Nov. 20 in Vancouver to condemn any attempt by the Campbell government to rollback the social services agreement. The emergency resolution also calls for united labour action to stop the government from reneging on the agreement.