“This government appears determined to take money out of the pockets of low-paid workers, and does not hesitate to break contracts to do it,” said Chris Anderson, lead negotiator for 13 unions representing workers who deliver community-based services for vulnerable people including children at risk, children and adults with mental and physical disabilities, and women fleeing abuse.
Anderson said he has just obtained a copy of a letter in which the government says, “due to budget pressure, the ministry will not be able to fund the October 2002 classification/equity increase contained in the collective agreement.” The letter, dated Nov. 27, 2003, was sent to the non-profit agencies that provide community services over the signature of Chris Haynes, deputy minister of Children and Family Development.
“It’s an arrogant and direct violation of a contract they signed. They haven’t even bothered to pass special legislation as they did when they tore up other contracts,” he said.
“The government is going back on its word and stealing money from front-line workers who are not paid a lot to begin with,” said Anderson. “The government is breaking its agreement to bring these workers in line with others who do similar work.”
“This is an outrageous situation. Premier Campbell is offering huge bonuses to people at the top, like Mr. Haynes, rewarding them for taking money out of the pockets of ordinary workers,” said Anderson. “Haynes is paid an annual salary of $154,000, and is in line for a bonus of up to $15,400 if he succeeds in driving down other people’s wages.”
Not satisfied with reneging on the previous salary agreement, the government is also demanding a huge cut in compensation during the current round of bargaining, he added.
“The letter demands that another $35 million be taken from workers in the next contract, and threatens to put community agencies out of business by re-tendering to ‘lower cost providers’ if they don’t knuckle under,” said Anderson. “Bullying. Threatening. Breaking contracts. It seems Premier Campbell will stop at nothing in his single-minded determination to drive down the wages of ordinary working people,” he said.
The 13 unions in the community social services sector represent approximately 15,000 workers, many of them part time. More than 200 employers are involved in the current round of bargaining. For most workers in this sector, including many with university degrees, the annual salary is approximately $33,000.
Soren Bech, B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, 604 291-9611
Mark Veerkamp, Canadian Union of Public Employees - BC, 604 291-1940
Patty Gibson, Hospital Employees Union (CUPE), 604 438-5000
Carol Riviere, Health Sciences Association, 604 439 0994
Community Social Services Union Bargaining Association
B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Hospital Employees’ Union
Health Sciences Association of British Columbia
United Steelworkers of America
Professional Employees’ Association United Food and Commercial Workers International Union
International Union of Operating Engineers
Canadian Translators and Interpreters Guild
Construction and Specialized Workers’ Union
British Columbia Nurses’ Union
National Automobile, Aerospace, Transportation and General Workers Union of Canada (CAW-Canada)