Attacking rather than answering, Social Development Minister Shane Simpson responds to questions about a union-only fund for social service agency staff, B.C. legislature, April 3, 2019. (Hansard TV)

B.C. VIEWS: Community care workers next on NDP’s union checklist

Premier John Horgan blusters, deflects, then spills the beans

The biggest and most media-ignored battle in the B.C. legislature so far this spring has been over the sudden revelation in March that the NDP’s $40 million “low wage redress” fund for community social services agencies is going to only half of them.

That would be the half where the employees are unionized. Thousands of people work for agencies contracted to the province to care for developmentally disabled and other vulnerable people, including children and the elderly. All these agencies get funded for the standard six-per-cent pay increase over three years that the John Horgan government is offering to its big government unions.

The unionized half gets the “low wage redress” fund, allowing their employers to add an additional 14 per cent increase, around $4 an hour. It would be half as much if the fund went to the whole sector, but the unions took the whole pot at the bargaining table, and the NDP has been trying unsuccessfully to conceal that fact ever since.

As many people have pointed out, this is clearly a strategy to force unionization of the whole group. It pays some people doing the same difficult work significantly less. In all health care and elderly support fields, there is a chronic shortage of willing and able workers, and this is how the B.C. government proposes to fix that: a cull of non-union community agencies on ideological lines.

Incidentally, the previous NDP government tried to do this in 1998, before being swept out of office and reduced to two East Vancouver seats.

READ MORE: NDP avoids questions about $40M union-only fund

After several days of concentrated questions and frantic evasions in the legislature, with Social Development Minister Shane Simpson and Children and Family Development Minister Katrine Conroy howling about the awful budget cuts of 2002, I asked Horgan about this “forced unionization.”

He interrupted me twice before I could even ask the question, then went back to the “16 years of neglect” refrain that his weaker ministers lean on these days. I started by noting that B.C. Green Party MLA Adam Olsen had been the latest to question this obvious inequity toward a group of hard-working people, 75 per cent of whom are women and many Indigenous. Olsen specifically asked Simpson to refrain from the “16 years” routine, and received the same tired, dismissive evasions from Simpson.

Fast forward a week, and Horgan is asked in another media scrum whether this obviously unfair situation is ever going to change. He revealed that he met with the ministers the previous night, joined by Finance Minister Carole James and NDP house leader Mike Farnworth, whose job is to keep the government from losing votes or otherwise screwing up.

Asked if there is “some plan for parity,” perhaps after three years, Horgan replied: “Absolutely. There is a disparity, and it wasn’t created by us, and it won’t be solved in one year.”

No one is arguing that these employees shouldn’t be paid more, but this statement is simply false. The “disparity” was created by this government, in March, intentionally and for a purpose they don’t want to talk about.

Horgan added that the non-union agencies are those who “aligned themselves with the Liberals for question period fodder.” And as was apparently decided at his inner-cabinet crisis meeting prompted by this “fodder,” the new party line is that these targeted agency managers might just line their own pockets instead of paying employees to keep them from leaving.

What a disgrace.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Work begins on new affordable housing building in Nelson

The 39-unit project is expected to be complete by July 2021

‘I knew what he wanted’: Man recalls black bear chasing him up tree in Slocan Valley

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

No passenger flights at West Kootenay Regional Airport until at least September

This is the third time Air Canada has announced changes to flight operations out of the airport

Morning Start: 180 different bird species exist in Kootenay National Park

Here is your Kootenays’ morning start for Friday, May 29

Retiring staff feted by School District 8

Teachers, custodians and staff were honoured Thursday

Only four new COVID-19 cases, 228 active across B.C.

Health officials watching as activities ramp up

Help the Nelson Star continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Black Press is now accepting donations to keep its papers operating

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

COVID cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a BC mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

State of Local Emergency declared for Boundary as communities brace for river flooding

Warm weather and heavy rain could cause sections of Kettle River system to swell beyond 2018 levels

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Minneapolis cop who knelt on man’s neck charged with murder

Arrest comes after three days of protests, which escalated in violence as demonstrators torched a police precinct

Police watchdog recommends charges against five Mounties in Prince George man’s death

Police used pepper spray on the man, who then had trouble breathing before dying at the scene

Most Read