British Columbia’s 15,000 community-based social service workers have ratified the tentative agreement they reached with the provincial government at the last minute, averting a strike in August 2011.
General services workers voted 88 per cent in favour of the contract, while 79 per cent of the community living services workers voted in favour.
“We are very pleased that BCGEU members who support children, women, adults with developmental disabilities, and other vulnerable members in our communities have voted in favour of this agreement,” says Darryl Walker, president of the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union, which was the lead union in the bargaining unit. “The quality of care and support they are able to provide is directly impacted by their job security and working conditions.”
The new contract contains a $600,000 retraining grant that the union says will be used to help workers who face “constant upheaval from group home closures, cutbacks in agencies that serve women in crisis, people with disabilities, and children with special needs.”
The agreement also contains improvement to job security and fair work practices for workers, such as bumping, job selection language and bullying.
There are no wage increases in the agreement. The British Columbia government is enforcing a “net-zero” policy for wage and benefit costs in public sector contracts.
“The community social services sector is made up of hard-working men and women who provide incredible support and assistance to individuals,” says B.C. Minister of Social Development Stephanie Cadieux. “I know that reaching this agreement took significant efforts on both sides, and I want to commend the parties for ensuring the support continues.”
In March 2011, the social service workers voted 82 per cent in favour of striking after almost two years of bargaining. Their last contract expired in March 2010.
The Community Social Services Bargaining Association (CSSBA) represented workers in negotiations. The unions in the CSSBA are the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Hospital Employees’ Union, the Health Sciences Association of British Columbia, the United Steelworkers, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Construction and Specialized Workers’ Union, the Christian Labour Association of Canada and the British Columbia Nurses’ Union.
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