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Posted: February 7, 2013

Local BCGEU members take job action

Cranbrook and area community social services workers spent today (Feb. 7) hoping to make a point.

Levi joined his master, Cheri, on the picket line today. "He wants better food," Cheri said. Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

B.C. Government Employee Union (BCGEU) Local 308 (Component 3) picketed outside the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) offices at 13th Street South from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today as part of a province-wide rotating strike action.

“We are on strike to send a clear message to the B.C. government: stop putting the squeeze on community social services workers,” notes an information pamphlet being distributed by strikers today.

The workers involved in the one-day strike include those who man the East Kootenay crisis line, operate child care programs and transition houses, help in job placement, family counseling, life skills training and numerous other social services programs in the city and region. There are between 100 and 120 BCGEU social services workers in the region.

“We are still the lowest paid in the province,” noted Erin Pan, Local 308 chair. The starting wage for community social services workers is $15/hour, which is $1 less than they were making 10 years ago.

“Many of us have had to take on second jobs or are having to leave the work we love,” the union informational says.

The rotating strike action around the province is being conducted, she said, because “we are hoping to get invited back to the table.”

She also pointed out she’s hopeful it won’t take as long to get a new contract this time around, as it took 22 months the last time the province and the union talked contract.

“The issue isn’t with out employer, it is with the government. Our employer has been great,” said union member Cheri Gagnon, explaining the CMHA gave the strikers permission to picket out front.

Some of the strikers chuckled when asked if Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett or a government representative had appeared to speak with them, and replied in the negative.

However, they noted that Kootenay East NDP candidate Norma Blissett stopped by to speak with them.

Lead photo: Picketers outside the CMHA offices this morning, Feb. 7 in Cranbrook.

Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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