New legislation changes community social services’ bargaining structure

B.C.’s Liberal government has brought down legislation that will radically alter collective bargaining in the province’s community social services sector.

Bill 61 — the Community Services Labour Relations Act — creates an association of unions that will bargain as a single entity at three separate tables: community living services; aboriginal services; and a child and family services table that will include women’s services and other general social services.

Although much of what is contained in the new legislation was anticipated by HEU (CUPE) and other unions representing community social services workers, the bill included several unexpected provisions that:

  • allow government to call for a representation vote that would elect one union for the entire sector;
  • prevent the Labour Code’s successorship provisions from applying to services being downloaded to a newly created authority; and
  • prohibit unions from bargaining restrictions on the use of volunteers, unless they would result in employee layoffs. 

Bill 61 also prohibits any language that would restrict the government or an agency from contracting out to a family home provider. A family home provider is defined as a family or a person who is providing primary care to no more than three people.

In a separate change of policy government has limited the designation for required membership in the Community Social Services Employer’s Association (CSSEA) to agencies with a minimum $250,000 annual budget, 50 per cent of which must come from provincial funding. This has resulted in the elimination of approximately 50 community social services locals from the province-wide contract, including two HEU certifications — Roderick St. Jacques Society and Pamela’s House Society. These employers will have the option of retaining CSSEA services for an associate member fee.

In the meantime, the four largest unions representing workers in this sector — the HEU, the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Health Sciences Association — will be meeting to establish the terms of association for the new labour association, which must be completed within 30 days following the passage of Bill 61. Once completed, bargaining in this sector will be ready to move forward.