CSSEA ratifies collective agreement
HEU's community social services sector has a new collective agreement Nine days after the Hospital Employees' Union's community social services workers voted 92 per cent to ratify the tentative agreement that HEU and other unions reached with the Community Social Services Employers Association on May 29, CSSEA announced that it has ratified the contract. "This is an important step that guarantees good wages and benefits to a sector that has been historically underpaid and undervalued," says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. "With this new collective agreement the critical services that these women and men provide to the community are at last being recognized." Parity in wages and benefits with health workers, employment security, an end to 24-hour shifts, pensions and protection of their contracts through successorship are contained in the new contract. "This is a great contract for front-line social service providers, but in the end it is good for the people they serve as well — who really are society's most needy citizens," says Allnutt. Workers in this sector provide services like occupational therapy, day programs, outreach, and helping parents with disabilities look after their children. There are about 8,000 non-unionized workers in this sector. One group of their employers is feeling particularly threatened that their employees will want to enjoy the gains made by the unions in this hard-won fight — that they may, in fact, want to join a union. These employers have launched an unfair labour practices complaint with the Labour Relations Board. "If the unions' members have moved the goal posts for wages and benefits, all the better," says Allnutt. "We are not forcing anybody to join our union, but if they contact us, we say 'Welcome!'" Because of CSSEA's voting structure, five employers in the services to womenís subsector — BCGEU certifications — are still withholding ratification of the collective agreement. "It is unacceptable to HEU that some people who work in this sector — with some very vulnerable clients — should themselves continue to be unprotected by a collective agreement," says Allnutt. "We support our BCGEU sisters and brothers as they continue their fight with this very intransigent employer."