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July 15, 2013

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Community living and family service programs may be cut as Liberals fail to provide promised bridge funding

BURNABY - Services for vulnerable families may be cut across B.C. following the government's failure to provide bridge funding for a 1.5% wage increase that was negotiated for frontline workers earlier this year, the Community Social Services Bargaining Association says.

Family service workers provide vital community-based social programs for vulnerable children, struggling youth and families across British Columbia. Community living workers provide programs and supports for people with developmental disabilities. Three-quarters of British Columbians have used community-based social services that are delivered by not-for-profit agencies across the province.

"This is unacceptable. There shouldn't be any further cuts to programs or services due to a lack of bridge funding," says CSSBA Chair Patsy Harmston who is chair of the Community Social Service Component of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union. "We negotiated the 1.5% wage increase in good faith and found savings in our collective agreement to pay for them."

"We upheld our side of the deal. The government should do the same," said Harmston. The following community-based social service agencies are not paying the 1.5% wage increase or may be cutting programs and services because they have not received proper funding:

  • John Howard Society - across British Columbia;
  • Prima Enterprises - Kamloops and Prince George;
  • Abilities Community Services - Victoria;
  • Interior Community Services - Kamloops;
  • Bernard C Vinge & Associates Community Living Services - Burnaby;
  • Richmond Society for Community Living;
  • South Okanagan Association for Integrated Community Living - Penticton.

Pay raises were negotiated and ratified within the government's so-called "co-operative gains" bargaining mandate, which identified cost savings to fund the pay raises that were to take effect April 1, 2013.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development has failed to provide bridge funding to cover the payroll increase until the cost savings can be achieved in two to three years. By contrast, the Ministry for Social Development has provided the same funding for the much larger number of community-based social service agencies that it funds.

"Why are some programs being treated differently than others? This discrepancy amounts to program cuts by stealth and bad faith bargaining," says Harmston.

The Community Social Services Bargaining Association bargains on behalf of 10,000 unionized community-based social service workers that work with vulnerable British Columbians. The bargaining association includes CUPE, BCGEU, HEU, HSA and six other unions.

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