Cheryl McLachlan

Cheryl McLachlan

Social service workers walk off the job in the Capital Region

Social service workers in Greater Victoria were the latest to take part in a provincewide rotating strike in an attempt to gain higher wages

Social service workers in Greater Victoria were the latest to take part in a provincewide rotating strike in an attempt to gain higher wages and improved working conditions.

Picket lines were up at Community Living Victoria in Saanich on Tuesday, while members of the Hospital Employees’ Union at day programs at Crossroads Human Services in Langford and Kardel Consulting Services in Vic West were also off the job.

Staff maintained essential service levels and the job action didn’t affect residential care homes. The day programs affected related to independent living and employment counselling.

The groups that picketed are two of 10 social services employees unions which comprise the 15,000-member-strong Community Social Services Bargaining Association. The association includes members of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the HEU.

“They’ve been at the bargaining table almost constantly for three years, including since February of this year and at this point, six-to-eight months later, (the Community Social Services Employers’ Association) haven’t even made a wage offer,” said Bob Wilson, HEU bargaining spokesperson.

In 2002, the starting wage for a front-line worker in the sector, such as a group home worker who is responsible for cooking and providing nursing care, was $16.83 per hour. Today the wage sits at $15.54. The association is asking for a three per cent wage increase each year – about $20 more each week for full-time workers – for a total six per cent over the course of the two-year contract.

“(Community Social Services employees) figure they’ve given back enough over the last 10 years and it’s time for them to receive a fair wage increase for what they do,” Wilson said. “They have a lot of families’ support in this because the whole sector is underfunded … We feel we have some catching up to do.”

“They have made no offer at this point, eight months into the negotiation,” Wilson said.

Gentil Mateus, chief executive officer of the Community Social Service Employers’ Association, said so far the bargaining process has been respectful and constructive, despite making little headway on the top issue of wages.

“The challenge we face under the mandate any money that’s generated for wage increases has to come from savings or efficiencies from within the sector,” Mateus said. “That’s very challenging for this sector because unlike the majority of other sectors, we realized most of our efficiencies in 2003.”

While wages are the No. 1 concern, the unions hope to settle other concessions, such as the ability to transfer between agencies and maintain seniority in an effort to retain qualified workers, Wilson noted.

“If government put $25 to $30 million on the table, we’d have a deal next week,” he said. “Even though compared to a lot of the bargaining going on, 15,000 is a fairly small sector, we feel this group deserves more than the others.”

“Some wage increases are possible. The question is how much and where’s the money going to come from?” he said.

Cuts to benefits and savings generated through work safety related costs may be the source of additional funds, Mateus said.

Rotating strikes began last week and will continue throughout the province in the days to come.

nnorth@saanichnews.com

 

Just Posted

BC Housing has brought in sanitation trailers to the former Mount Tolmie Hospital site so its current residents can access clean water, showers, sinks and toilets after a collapsed sewer pipe impacted water service to the building. (Google Streetview)
Mount Tolmie Hospital homelessness shelter using sanitation trailers after pipe collapse

Travelodge shelter residents faced intermittent hot water supply in late May, early June

COVID-19 exposures have been reported at Colquitz Middle School and Tillicum Elementary School, both on June 14. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
Two Saanich schools report COVID-19 exposures

Exposures reported at Colquitz Middle School and Tillicum Elementary School

An eastern cottontail rabbit on the UVic campus. (Evert Lindquist/News Staff)
Wild rabbits persist at the University of Victoria

Feral rabbits are still absent, but another non-native species has arrived on campus

Sooke RCMP seized cocaine, ketamine, MDMA, prescription pills, $6,000 cash, a machete and pepper spray during a bust June 15. (Courtesy of Sooke RCMP)
Sooke RCMP seize drugs, machete, pepper spray

Man arrested near Evergreen Centre following drug deal

An old growth cedar stands in a cut-block within the Caycuse Valley. More than 100 prominent Canadians, have signed an open letter calling for the immediate protection of all remaining old-growth forests in B.C. (Submitted)
Brian Mulroney and Greta Thunberg among 100 celebrities pushing to save B.C. old growth

List includes Indigenous leaders, scientists, authors, Oscar winners

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Wild rabbits are all over Chilliwack, but people often think they’re someone’s lost pet and try to ‘save’ them. But the owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room says good intentions can have bad consequences for wild animals. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room asks people to leave wild animals in the wild

Amber Quiring says people who think they’re helping are actually doing more harm than good

Syringes prepared with Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine are seen at a vaccination site in Long Beach, Calif., Friday, March 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Vaccine first doses now available for walk-ins on Vancouver Island

People aged 18+ can walk in for their first COVID-19 vaccine

Photos displayed at a vigil for former Nanaimo outreach worker Amy Watts, whose body was found June 3 and whose death RCMP are investigating as a homicide. (News Bulletin photo)
‘We need to do better,’ says mother of woman killed in Nanaimo

Vigil held for former outreach worker Amy Watts, whose body was found downtown June 3

Thousands of protesters make their way through the downtown core during a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa, Friday June 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Chair of the House public safety committee says it’s time for a reckoning on ‘quasi-military’ structure

A case filled with packages of boneless chicken breasts is shown in a grocery store Sunday, May 10, 2020, in southeast Denver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski
One million chickens euthanized during labour dispute at Quebec slaughterhouse

Premier says waste amounts to 13 per cent of the province’s chicken production thrown in the garbage

Most Read