Defending low-wage redress for the CSS sector - BCGEU

In recent weeks you may have seen commentary in the media questioning why the low-wage redress funding we won in the last round of collective bargaining would go only to unionized workers in the sector – and not non-unionized workers as well.

Of course, the first answer is that since these funds were union-negotiated, they should go to union members. However, the second answer goes deeper – if these bargained funds are afforded to non-unionized worksites, it serves to discourage unionization in general because it sends the message that not everyone has to do the hard work of collective bargaining to improve their working conditions. And over the longer term, disincentivizing unionization will negatively impact working people in B.C. Those that would continue suppressing wages and gutting services in the sector – the ones questioning the distribution of low-wage redress right now – know this, and this is why they have started this debate.

We want you to know that we are pushing back, not only to safeguard what we fought for and what we deserve, but against this attack on the labour movement itself.

The Community Social Services Bargaining Association (CSSBA) has written an open letter published here about why the CSS sector was pushed into crisis over the last two decades, and therefore why low-wage redress funding is so important as we take the first steps towards repairing the damage. Here is an excerpt:

Despite the critical importance of the services the CSS sector provides, it has been in crisis for years-a crisis characterized by the lowest wages in the broader public service and some the highest rates of turnover, stress, injury and burnout in both unionized and non-unionized agencies.

This crisis is a direct result of a slate of legislative and regulatory changes implemented by the previous government designed to weaken unions, gut services, suppress wages, and encourage privatization at the expense of the health, safety, and dignity of frontline workers and the people they support.

It should surprise no one that we are fully in support of the government's recent decision to provide funding for low-wage redress-funding secured through collective bargaining-to unionized workers. We see this decision as a small but necessary step towards restoring fairness, respecting workers and repairing the damage to the CSS sector caused by almost twenty years of regressive, targeted attacks by the previous government.

Read the whole letter here.

As union members we do the hard work of collective bargaining and raise the bar for all workers. Today we have a provincial government that is on our side and wants to do the right thing. We will continue to speak out about the issue of low-wage redress as part of the larger project not just to repair the damage done, but to re-vitalize and re-organize community social services.

You can help too – make sure your MLA hears from you on this issue! Use this tool to find your MLA's contact information and let them know that you stand with the provincial government's decision to provide low-wage redress to unionized workers as a critical step to restoring fairness and balance to the CSS sector.

Also, if you know someone in the sector working at a non-union site, encourage them to get in touch with us to learn about the union advantage! They can email our organizing department directly at organizing@bcgeu.ca or call 604-291-9611.

In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President
Andrea Duncan, Component 3 Vice President