May 30, 2011

Community social service workers return strong strike mandate

Unions call on province and employers to protect community jobs and services

BURNABY—Frontline community social service workers across British Columbia have given their bargaining committee a strike mandate of 85 per cent in Community Living and 77 per cent in General Services.  The vote follows more than 18 months of protracted contract talks that broke down on March 30.

“This strike vote comes at a time of deepening crisis in community social services,” says bargaining committee member Michael Lanier.  “We are seeing group home closures, cutbacks in agencies that serve women in crisis, families, people with disabilities, children with special needs and many others who rely on these community-based services.”

“Our frontline workers are the ones who know the extent of the crisis in community social services – they deal with it every working day,” says CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill.  “If you don’t believe there is a crisis, just ask the people we serve.”

“These workers care for our most vulnerable citizens and yet they continue to lag behind every other unionized sector - now is the time to stand up and take action. We must have a fair deal addressing increased layoffs, less job security, and the chronic recruitment and retention problem.”

The Community Social Services Bargaining Association (CSSBA) says it is time for the provincial government and its employers to step up and provide the respect and resources needed to stabilize services and improve working conditions. Members can easily send a “fair deal or no deal” message directly to B.C. Premier Christy Clark at

CUPE Social Services Coordinator Cheryl Colborne says the CSSBA is working to establish essential services levels to protect client health and safety in the event of job action. “We’re asking all our members to stay tuned for developments and to ensure that their CUPE local has their current contact information.”

The CSSBA includes nine unions representing about 15,000 workers employed by 220 agencies across British Columbia. CUPE represents approximately 2,500 of those workers - the second largest union in the sector.

CUPE community social services members work in group homes, shelters and supported housing, sexual assault centres and victims' services, transition houses, child care centres and programs that provide counseling, rehabilitation, employment training, outreach, advocacy and referral services as well as crisis lines and information services.

See joint press release.

COPE 491