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.

Just Posted

Reader survey offers Free Press readers $5000 cash prize

The Free Press is offering readers the chance to win $5000 cash… Continue reading

SD5 drafts business case for Fernie school expansion

Ecole Isabella Dicken Elementary School is currently 30 per cent over capacity

District of Elkford celebrates grand opening of new municipal office

Submitted District of Elkford The District of Elkford has officially begun serving… Continue reading

GALLERY: Fernie hosts mine rescue competition

Fording River, Line Creek mine rescue teams off to provincials after placing first and second

Fernie beer named Canada’s best pale ale

Fernie Brewing Company’s Campout West Coast Pale finishes first at the Canadian Brewing Awards

Killer of Calgary mother, daughter gets no parole for 50 years

A jury found Edward Downey guilty last year in the deaths of Sara Baillie, 34, and five-year-old Taliyah Marsman

Wildfire between Jaffray and Cranbrook under control

A wildfire discovered yesterday between Jaffray and Mayook is now classified as… Continue reading

Raptors beat Bucks 120-102 to even series at 2-2

Lowry pours in 25 as Toronto moves within two games of NBA Finals

Body of missing snowmobiler recovered from Great Slave Lake

Police confirm the body is that of one of three missing snowmobilers

Toddler seriously injured after falling from Okanagan balcony

RCMP are investigating after a two-year-old boy fell from the balcony of an apartment in Kelowna

Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada Highway widening in B.C.

Revelstoke-area stretch first awarded under new union deal

Is vegan food a human right? Ontario firefighter battling B.C. blaze argues it is

Adam Knauff says he had to go hungry some days because there was no vegan food

Winds helping in battle against fire threatening northern Alberta town

Nearly 5,000 people have cleared out of High Level and nearby First Nation

Most Read