BCGEU members in employment assistance meet with minister - BCGEU

Six BCGEU members who work for the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction met with minister Shane Simpson late last week.

The members are from BCGEU Component 6 - Social, Information and Health and Component 12 – Administrative Services.

The meeting was organized by the union so that the minister could hear firsthand the issues facing workers on the front-lines in the hope they can be addressed by the government.

These issues include: overwhelming workloads, the need for more staffing, work performance measures, problems with the current service delivery model and computer software, and unnecessary duplication of tasks.

"Our members' clients have complex issues. The existing staff cannot handle the present volume of work. It's disheartening and frustrating for our members to not be able to provide the highest quality service to those who need it," said Judy Fox-McGuire, the vice-president of the BCGEU's Social, Information and Health component. 

"Our members told the minister about their passion for helping clients and the pride they take in their work. At the same time, they're worried clients aren't getting consistent, dignified and fair service. The result is diminished morale. We need to find solutions to guarantee better client service and better working conditions," said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith.

Our union intends to continue working with members and the government to find ways to resolve the problems.

"The minister wants to change the culture of the ministry and we believe it will happen. He also indicated he wants to hear our ideas, our creative solutions to problems. We're urging BCGEU members to share their thoughts with their BCGEU local so we can get them in front of the minister," said Fox-McGuire.

In a report released last April, B.C.'s Ombudsman Jay Clarke made nine recommendations aimed at improving services. The report confirmed what the BCGEU has pointed out for years regarding the long wait times and inadequate service levels. 

The recommendations include:

• Reporting wait time statistics to increase transparency on the ministry's progress in addressing this problem

• Hiring more employment assistance workers (EAWs) to reduce wait times and provide adequate levels of service

• Phasing out the use of limited service techniques used to reduce the amount of time EAWs spend on each call, which resulted in reduced service levels for people seeking assistance

"Implementing these recommendations would go a long way to addressing the issues our members raised with the minister," said Fox-McGuire.