Penticton community support workers wore placards and waved flags behind picket lines on Tuesday.
“This is a targeted strike and if the government doesn’t came back to the table we will be ramping it up,” said Loanne Pickard, bargaining committee member for the community social services workers, who was picketing on Industrial Avenue on Tuesday in front of the Penticton and District Society for Community Living.
Professionals from agencies that support children and adults with developmental disabilities and provide other community services were on strike on Tuesday in Penticton and affected the day programs at PDSCL and at Chestnut Place on Winnipeg Street. The strike was to continue on Wednesday for workers in Vernon, Armstrong and in the Cariboo. Pickard said better wages, restoration of benefit packages and sick days are some of the key issues behind the strike that affects 10 unions. The unions argue that since 2004 the B.C. Liberal government has slashed $300 million in funding for programs that support the developmentally disabled, vulnerable women, at-risk youth and children and infants in community-based programs across the province.
Since Oct. 16, rotating strike action in community social services has impacted agencies across B.C. According to the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, social service workers have taken a 22 per cent wage cut, factoring in inflation, over the last decade. They say the current starting wage for a residential care worker is $15.54 an hour and in 2002 it was $16.83.
Essential services levels are being maintained throughout the strike and further job action was being threatened to target agencies in the Lower Mainland later this week by the BCGEU.