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Non-profit group worries province's policy to boost only union wages could shut them down

Last Updated Apr 17, 2019 at 3:01 pm PDT

(Martin MacMahon, NEWS 1130)

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – A recent — and what many say was a sudden change — to the province’s community care worker pay policy is putting some providers in peril.

The decision to give special funding only to union workers from April could lead to fewer options for those needing specialized care.

Lynda Vallee is with Shekinah Homes Society, a Victoria non-profit group supporting developmentally delayed adults. She’s worried about the province’s new policy to boost only union wages.

Vallee says the group relies on staff that choose to be non-union, and if the wage policy stands, they may not survive.

“We have a bit of a unique model because we have communal living assistants that live in the home. So, to be able to compete against health and education has been hard enough. But now, when we start competing against each other, it makes it even more difficult in a market where there’s a very low unemployment rate.”

Vallee worries if the wage disparity remains, people they support will be left with one less option available to them.

“We really enjoy the flexibility of being non-union. Part of our work team — because they’re communal living assistance that live in the home — could not be unionized. So, if we did decide to unionize, it would completely change our model of service.”

She says the pay imbalance will lead to another barrier to marginalized people who are already struggling to access appropriate services.

BCCEO threatens court action

Meanwhile, a group representing dozens of B.C. care worker organizations is putting the government on notice.

The BC CEO says the province’s policy is unfair and needs to change. The head of the group, which coordinates not-for-profit groups, hopes a stern letter from their lawyer (see below) will help avoid going to court.

“I don’t believe the government will be able defend this decision or continue with it,” Doug Tennant said.

He tells us their letter to the province’s finance and social development ministers lays out their case against a wage bump for only union workers announced just weeks before it took effect. “The unfairness of the situation … identifying that we will be having further action on this if the government does not respond to our request in a positive way.”

“We need to see that the government is actively working on this specific issue with the solution being a fair settlement for the workers that are not being compensated fairly now.”

Tenannt say there is legal precedent in their favour, and suspects this will end where a similar case did 20 years ago. “The government [decided] that yes, we do need to fairly pay all workers … not just the union ones.”

But he hopes the province abandons the new policy without a fight.

The 120 organizations under the BCCEO umbrella, he says, are 50/50 union and non-union.

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