'The ministry now seems to indicate that this is no longer a budget issue but a recruitment issue.' - Darryl Walker.
Vancouver (26 Jan. 2011) - The British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) stands ready, willing and able to help the province recruit more staff in remote areas to cope with serious issues highlighted by case reviews involving the deaths of children.
The ministry of children and family development (MCFD) recently acknowledged publicly that it faces recruitment and retention challenges in rural and remote regions of the province.
"This is not a budget issue but a recruitment issue," a ministry spokesperson recently told the Victoria Times Colonist.
BCGEU president Darryl Walker says these workers face "one of the most challenging jobs" in the province and the union has been telling the ministry that it strongly supports "action on social worker recruitment and retention."
In response to the situation, he adds, BCGEU held meetings with the deputy and minister of MCFD as well as officials of the Public Service Agency (PSA) to remind them that the BCGEU collective agreement offers all the flexibility needed to address the situation and the union stands ready to take immediate action.
Memorandum of Understanding # 22 of the BCGEU collective agreement provides for Temporary Market Adjustments to address salary issues associated with recruitment and retention. A number of classifications are already receiving such incentives. Other jobs qualify for market adjustments by mutual agreement of the bargaining principals.
"We have repeatedly told the ministry that while northern recruitment issues are often extreme there is a widespread issue of social work staff shortages in all areas of the province which would benefit from a recruitment and retention market adjustment," notes Doug Kinna, chair of the union's social, information and health component, which includes child protection social workers.
"We have offered to sit down with the government to try and find solutions to issues like training and standards, but have been turned away each time," adds Kinna. "We do not want to do child protection on the cheap."
Kinna notes that current caseloads are in the range of 30 to 50 per social worker. They should be in the low 20s.
Walker has welcomed the government's apparent change of thinking on staffing issues.
"The ministry now seems to indicate that this is no longer a budget issue but a recruitment issue and the BCGEU will once again pursue action on this from government to address these critical staff shortages," he says.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 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