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Family service workers picket in Nelson
Fifteen workers walked off the job last week with a one-day strike shutting down the Kootenay Kids Society’s Family Place.
Play and literacy group leaders, home support workers and physical and occupational therapists were among those picketing outside the Family Place Thursday. Programs such as Life After Birth, Young Parent’s Group and all resource and referral assistance were cancelled.
Colleagues throughout the province joined the local BCGEU employees, as rotating strikes are ongoing.
Family Place manager Jennifer Ruse said the professionals who support families in the community are being overlooked despite providing an invaluable service.
“We haven’t had a contract for two years,” said Ruse. “Really our argument isn’t with our employers at the moment. It’s with the government.”
Local workers hope the issue will garner more attention with a provincial election scheduled for later this spring. According to Ruse, their main complaint is with wages. Their starting pay is $15 — one dollar less an hour than it was 10 years ago.
“And of course, since then, the cost of living has skyrocketed,” she said, adding some people she works with have had to take a second job to make ends meet.
But they don’t want wage increases to come at the expense of the services they offer, said Ruse.
“We work with the most vulnerable families so this affects them,” she said.
BCGEU Community Social Services Chairperson Patsy Harmston said proper government funding is needed for family services and other community-based social services.
“We enjoy helping families participate in their community and enjoy the best quality of life possible,” she said.
Family service employees work with families, intervening when children or youth are at risk. They help with substance addictions. They work with teenage or single parents trying to make ends meet. They provide family counselling, job and life skills training and infant and supported child development among other things.
Rotating strikes will continue. Last week’s strike included nearly 500 workers across the province with pickets going up in Vancouver, Kamloops, Nelson, Castlegar, Trail, Cranbrook and Vernon. This strike follows one by community living workers across the province with 3,400 people engaged in job action at the end of January.
Essential services are being maintained.