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Murray Bush | CUPE Communications

Community social ser­vices workers in British Columbia ratified a new five-year collective agreement in February. The deal, which includes wage adjustments of up to 11.5 per cent, is the payoff for three hard rounds of bargaining.

Provincial government interference in collective bargaining prevented wage increases in 2010 and  2012 and kept the lowest paid public-sector workers lagging behind. 

“The last three bar­gai­ning rounds were brutal – but out of them has emerged a stronger, more confident, more nited sector,” said Cheryl Colborne, CUPE community social services coordinator in BC.

“We took the talks to impasse twice and we were on strike for three and half months in 2012, said Colborne. This is huge in a sector of primarily lower-paid workers and mostly women where many need a second and even third job just to make ends meet.” With 15,000 workers repre­sented by ten unions, unity can be a challenge. “We worked hard to reach the public and resonate with our members as Commu­nity Social Services Workers,” said Colborne. “We focused on the bigger picture and it worked. CUPE National was instrumental in developing that message.”

The other big difference was the relationship with our employers. “They suffered the same lack of funding and came out pushing hard alongside us in the latest round to protect and enhance services,” she said. 

“We are finally getting some of the long-overdue recognition and respect for our community social services workers. Now we will build on those gains,” said CUPE BC President Mark Hancock.