Strike votes are underway for 15,000 British Columbia broader public sector employees who work with some of the most vulnerable people in the province.
Talks broke down on June 7 between the provincial government, employers and the 10 unions representing B.C.'s community social services workers. The parties have been in negotiations since February, trying to reach a new collective agreement.
The main issues in the dispute are wage increases and improved benefits. The B.C. government continues to operate under a “co-operative gains” mandate. That is, if savings or increased revenue can be found somewhere else within the sector, wages can go up.
However, the union continues to ask for increased wages, arguing community social service workers are the lowest paid workers in the broader public sector.
"We are asking for a fair and reasonable deal for the caring professionals that care and support adults with developmental disabilities, youth at risk, and women fleeing abusive relationships and other vulnerable people in B.C.," said James Cavalluzzo, chair of the multi-union bargaining committee known as the Community Social Services Bargaining Association (CSSBA).
In the event of a strike, essential service agreements would be in place to protect clients served by community social service workers, including youth at risk and people with development disabilities, according to Cavaluzzo.
Strike votes began on June 12 with the last vote scheduled for June 27.
Community social service workers in Aboriginal Services currently remain at the bargaining table.
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.
The provincial government's Community Social Services Employers' Association (CSSEA) represents 220 agencies in the sector.
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