Family service workers on picket line

'Community social service workers are the lowest paid in this sector'

Mike Youds / Kamloops Daily News
February 7, 2013 01:00 AM

Practicum student Jill Pelly waves to motorists while joining community support workers in front of Interior Community Services on Tranquille Road Thursday. Also shown, at right, are Laurel Scott with her dog Mojo, and Peter Anderson. MURRAY MITCHELL/THE DAILY NEWS with youds story

Striking family service workers returned to picket lines Thursday as rotating job action by government social service employees continues across the province.

Along with a noon-hour rally, pickets paraded all day past the offices of Interior Community Services and Prima Enterprises on Tranquille Road, along with one canine companion pressed into service. Laurel Scott's dog Mojo was outfitted with a sign that read, "Wagging for wages."

Scott said workers want to remind the provincial government that vulnerable families - including the street youths she works with - are put last on the priority list.

"These are people who are struggling with everyday life," Scott said.

This is the second week of job action after community living workers in Kamloops picketed and rallied Jan. 31. There are about 90 BCGEU family services staff in the city as well as workers belonging to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

While community living workers support developmentally disabled adults and their families, family service workers support at-risk youth and families. They say that $300 million in cutbacks over the past eight years have hurt them as well as their clients.

"All of that continues to put more and more pressure on families."

Essential service components - including group homes, health and safety programs, and Meals on Wheels - were maintained again on Thursday. However, day programs, such as the drop-in youth program she manages, have been curtailed.

"Young people come to the drop-in and it could be the only hot meal they receive that day. I have kids, it's possible they won't eat today."

She said the BCGEU has recognized the tight financial constraints many of the workers face by paying them "target pay," which amounts to 70 per cent of pay up to $100 a day. Strike pay would be $50 a day.

Her colleagues love their work but many are thinking of leaving because they're unable to support their families, she said.

"We're also talking about a government that said there was no money for your increase and went back and voted themselves a wage increase. We're not asking for 30 per cent. Our members haven't had an increase in eight years. Community social service workers are the lowest paid in this sector."

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