Community social services workers call on new trustee to pay up

A joint release from the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union, the B.C. Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Hospital Employees' Union (CUPE), and the Health Sciences Association.

The women and men who care for society's most vulnerable citizens are urging the government's new trustee in the community social services sector to implement their outstanding wage increase.

"Residential care workers in communities across the province are furious that they didn't receive their negotiated October 1st wage increase because the former employers' association advised its members-the employers-to violate collective agreements by refusing to pay it," said George Heyman, president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU).

"Now that the government has fired the board and replaced it with a trustee, we're reiterating our demand that employers be instructed to pay up. These underpaid workers walked the picket line for 11 weeks to achieve a just and fair wage. It's well past time they were paid what is owed," Heyman said.

The October 1st wage increase for two-thirds of the workforce in the sector is part of the agreement negotiated between the BCGEU, Hospital Employees' Union, Canadian Union of Public Employees and Health Sciences Association, and the former Community Social Services Employers' Association (CSSEA). The CSSEA board was recently fired and replaced by a trustee, Peter Cameron.

"This October 1st wage increase, had it been paid, would have brought the hourly rate of residential care workers and their equivalents a step closer to wages paid for similar work in the community health sector," Heyman said.

"The agreement in the last round of bargaining signalled an end to what had historically been a low-wage ghetto, and acknowledged the important skilled services they provide to people with mental and developmental challenges.

"For CSSEA to turn around and counsel employers to blatantly violate this agreement shows a contempt for workers and lack of respect for their work. Our hope is that the new trustee will understand that a contract is a contract," Heyman said.

The four unions represent about 10,000 workers in the sector who provide community living for people with mental and developmental challenges, group homes for children with severe physical or mental disabilities, counselling to families in crisis, and who staff transition houses and women's shelters.