Jan 17, 2012

CUPE Community social services workers deserve recognition and respect

BURNABY—Community Social Services workers deserve a fair wage increase that addresses the gap making us the lowest paid unionized public service workers in British Columbia. 

And that’s exactly what CUPE and other unions representing CSS workers will be seeking in the next round of bargaining.

Wage freezes have got to stop. CSS workers are falling further and further behind, and are now worse off financially than several years ago. Taking inflation into account, we have lost 4.5 per cent of our income in the last two years alone.

“When we were forced to take two years of zeroes in the last round of bargaining, we were doing our part to help the province’s financial situation—even though the government’s budget deficit was not our fault,” says CUPE CSS coordinator Cheryl Colborne. “We were being fair; now it is the government’s turn to be fair.”

This time, the BC Liberal Government must negotiate a fair and reasonable collective agreement that includes improvements to wages, job security, and benefits that keep up with inflation. To achieve this, says Colborne, the government must reverse the negative outcomes of the last rounds of bargaining, recognize what Community Social Services workers have sacrificed and understand that these workers are not prepared to accept more zeroes, concessions, or mining of the collective agreement.

Community Social Services workers are caring, community minded, trained, and skilled professionals who provide a range of services for British Columbians in need. These include residences and day programs for people with developmental disabilities, support for families and youth in need, quality child care, support for victims of violence and people dealing with physical and emotional abuse, assistance for those with substance abuse issues, services for children with special needs, counseling and support for immigrant families, services for aboriginal people, services for women, support for people with emotional and mental health challenges, support for people facing job loss, life skill or decision-making problems, and much more.

Despite the critical importance of these services to families throughout B.C., Community Social Services workers are chronically underpaid. An increasing number of CUPE’s CSS members have to work at more than one job just to make ends meet. With increased workloads, CSS public service workers continue to be forced to do more with less and are under increasing pressure to work harder for no extra pay. 

“Through wage freezes, reduction and/or elimination of funding, program redesigns, restructuring and closures, lost benefits and layoffs, the cuts to this sector have been too deep,” says Colborne. “Zeroes are not a compromise by government—they are cuts.”

Colborne adds that bargaining will be tough but that the union is prepared for any action necessary in order to achieve improved contracts.

The Community Social Services Union Negotiating Committee will hold meetings from January 18-20 in order to formalize the Unions’ bargaining demands for one proposal package and to prepare for bargaining to commence.

“The BC Government chooses where and how to spend money,” says Colborne. “Now is the time to invest in the Community Social Services Public Sector.”

Please ensure that your local union has your most recent contact information, inclusive of e-mail addresses.  Continue to check CUPE BC’s website and look forward to many more bargaining bulletins.

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