“These workers are paid artificially low wages compared to their peers. It’s time for the government to fix this injustice.” — Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President.
Burnaby (30 Sept. 2014) — British Columbia's Native courtworkers issued 72-hour strike notice to their employer to call attention to the B.C. government’s discriminatory wage policies, the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) announced on September 26.
Native courtworkers challenging government wage policy, look for pay equity with peers
Native courtworkers, who help aboriginal clients navigate the criminal court system, receive significantly less pay and benefits than workers performing similar jobs in the public service, says the union.
“This dispute is fundamentally about a government wage policy that treats workers differently,” says BCGEU President Stephanie Smith. “These workers are paid artificially low wages compared to their peers. It’s time for the government to fix this injustice.”
At the heart of the workers’ dispute is the failure of the B.C. government to bring these workers into the Aboriginal bargaining unit of the Community Social Services Employers’ Association (CSSEA) when it was created in 2003. Had it done so, the workers would be paid much more.
Starting wages are more than $13,000 lower than other workers doing similar work
The starting wage for a Native courtworker is only $31,800 a year, compared to $45,100 for a comparable classification under the Aboriginal Services agreement. Also, Native courtworkers only receive partial benefits compared to the Aboriginal Services agreement.
Workers in this bargaining unit also haven’t had a wage increase in five years, and have seen only a nine per cent pay increase since 2002. Meanwhile, the inflation rate rose 18 per cent in that time, which has eroded their purchasing power.
“Our members have been patient, waiting for the B.C. government to do the right thing and treat them like other public employees,” says Smith. “But now they are saying enough is enough and are reluctantly taking job action to pressure the government to fix this discriminatory practice.”
The BCGEU/NUPGE represents 36 members employed by the Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of British Columbia. These members provide court services and counselling to aboriginal citizens in 20 communities across British Columbia.
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