Over 1,500 striking community social services workers protest in Victoria

News release

Joint release of BCGEU, CUPE, HEU and HSA

Over 1,500 striking community social services workers marched through downtown Victoria today, calling for the government to live up to its promises to end wage and benefit discrimination and end the month-old job action by 10,000 workers around the province.

"It's one year ago this month that our members first sat down with their employers to negotiate a new collective agreement," said Fred Muzin, HEU president. "And one year later, community social services workers and their clients are still waiting for a fair and just settlement."

"For too long, community social services workers, mostly women, have been amongst the lowest-paid workers in B.C.'s public service," said Barry O'Neill, president of CUPE BC. "It's well past time the government sent its negotiators back to the bargaining table with a renewed mandate that addresses this inequity."

Kelly Finlayson, HSA vice-president, added: "This dispute is about more than just money. It's about fairness and respect for the women and men who care for society's most vulnerable citizens. It's time the government acknowledged these workers and the important services they provide."

Cliff Andstein, chief negotiator for the BCGEU, criticized the employers' bargaining representative for deliberately misleading the public about the cost of a settlement that addresses wage and benefit discrimination.

"The Community Social Services Employers' Association has said publicly that the unions' proposal would cost $400 million to half a billion dollars. That's not only untrue, it's provocative and unethical, and erroneously based on inflated, unreliable or unavailable costing information," Andstein said.

"The fact is, it would cost the government a fraction of that amount to settle this dispute, and bring some fairness and justice to these low-paid workers. Surely a government that can give over $100 million in tax breaks to corporations can afford to pay the workers who care for our children, provide safe houses for battered women, and support people with physical or developmental disabilities a living wage and decent benefits."

Community social services workers work in a variety of community agencies providing support for community living, family and children's services, services to women, and child care. The workers are represented by the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Hospital Employees' Union (HEU), and Health Sciences Association (HSA).