Native court workers' strike vote signals push for parity

BURNABY, BC, Sept. 12, 2014 /CNW/ - Workers at the Native Court Workers and Counselling Association of BC have voted 98 per cent in favour of strike action if necessary to support their demand for parity with other Aboriginal workers in the province, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union announced today.

In 2003, the B.C. Liberal government passed the Community Services Labour Relations Act, which created a sectoral bargaining unit for CSSEA members who provide Aboriginal services. But the native court workers were never brought into this agreement, due to a lack of commitment to funding by the government.

"Placing these workers into the CSSEA agreement would bring these employees up to the industry standard," says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "This is about fundamental fairness. Aboriginal people deserve the same wages and benefits as other public employees doing similar work."

The bargaining unit, which is funded by the B.C. government, should be included in the Community Social Services Employers' Association (CSSEA) Aboriginal services bargaining unit, the union says. Starting wage for a native court worker is only $31,800, compared to $42,000 for an Aboriginal service worker under the CSSEA agreement.

Employees working as native court workers province-wide have had wage increases amounting to only nine per cent since 2002. Meanwhile, B.C.'s inflation rate has gone up by more than 18 per cent in that time. The workers haven't had a raise since 2009 and their collective agreement expired in 2011.

"Our members at the Native Court Workers and Counselling Association have sent a strong signal to government that five years without a raise and three years without an agreement is too long," says Smith. "They provide valuable services to Aboriginal people within the court system and deserve fair compensation for their work, properly funded by the government.

The union and employers are requesting assistance from the B.C. Labour Board to mediate the dispute, and have dates scheduled for September 16 and 18. Native court workers have been BCGEU members since 1981.

SOURCE: B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union

For further information:

Chris Bradshaw at 604-291-9611 or 604-369-8411

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B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union

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