B.C. government refuses funds to implement recommendations for social worker compensation

“The failure to fund the necessary work to implement the recommendations brings the government’s commitment to the action plan into serious doubt.” — Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President

Vancouver (17 March 2017) — The provincial government is failing to implement important recommendations in the Plecas report dealing with social worker wages, says the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU/NUPGE).

Wage rates remain a major impediment to retaining highly trained social workers. The Plecas report shows that social worker wage rates are about 11 per cent below the national average. 

Government commitment in doubt

The BCGEU/NUPGE has been working with the B.C. government on a process to implement the report recommendations for the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD). The recent recruitment incentive for staff in hard-to-recruit for communities is a start, but doesn’t address the real issue of the need for a market wage adjustment for social workers in this ministry.

Plecas recommends significant market wage adjustments for social workers so as to increase retention rates. However, the ministry has indicated there is no additional funding allocated to implement the recommendation.

“We were frankly astounded at this turn of events, as it seems to be a breach in our working relationship,” says Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President. “The failure to fund the necessary work to implement the recommendations brings the government’s commitment to the action plan into serious doubt.”

B.C. government ignores problem of retaining social workers

The B.C. government appears to be moving from one scathing MCFD report to the next without implementing the elements needed to make real and lasting improvements in services to children and families.

“Social work is one of the most difficult roles in government, and the recommendations contained in the Plecas report acknowledged this fact,” says Doug Kinna, Social, Information and Health Vice-President. “However, while the government is hiring new social workers, there seems to be no real resources available to assist with retention.”

Hard-to-recruit communities suffering due to lack of staff

Last year the MCFD, the BCGEU/NUPGE and the Public Service Association held productive discussions and reached an agreement on modest lump-sum payments for social workers in hard-to-recruit or in remote communities in B.C. Approximately 250 staff will be eligible for these payments, which are expected to start in April 2017.

The BCGEU/NUPGE believes that the B.C. government needs to address wage rates of ministry social workers to improve the longer-term recruitment and retention of highly trained social workers. The union remains available to meet with the Ministry as previously agreed, should they show a willingness to seriously address these key issues within the ministry.

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. ~ NUPGE