Greater Trail community social service workers are not walking off the job anytime soon, as negotiations for a new collective agreement received a glimmer of hope Monday.
Though details are limited, the Community Social Services Employers’ Association has reached a tentative deal with the Community Social Services Bargaining Association.
“Reaching this tentative agreement took a lot of hard work and commitment to serving the needs of British Columbia’s most vulnerable,” said Minister of Social Development Harry Bloy in a news release.
“I commend both parties for their efforts that will result in continued service to those who need it most.”
Strike action was delayed while the province’s 200 contracted agencies worked toward determining what essential services will remain intact should job action occur on a province-wide scale.
Locally, the Trail Association for Community Living identified these
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essential services and the non-profit organization that supports individuals with developmental disabilities awaited further direction.
A province-wide strike would end day programs for the approximate 150 locals who take advantage of recreational outings like a trip to the Trail Aquatic and Leisure Centre for a workout. But action would not impact those living in the four local residential group homes, where 24-seven coverage is delivered to those with developmental disabilities.
“Their health and safety hours would definitely still be maintained in the event of a strike because that’s mandatory, that’s essential,” explained executive director of the Trail Association for Community Living Nancy Gurr, prior to the tentative deal announcement Monday night. “Everybody can still access the community programs as they do and in the event that there is some labour action, I know with essential services in place, we’ll be fine.”
The Community Social Services Employers Association and the Community Social Services Bargaining Association met last week to continue with negotiations. The bargaining committee pressed that in order to reach a deal, the employer must move on key issues like job security, fair work practices and the continuing bleeding of jobs and decimation of services in the sector. A CUPE representative from the Trail office was not available for comment by press time Monday.
The Trail Association for Community Living is the oldest association in the province. Starting up in the early 1950s as the Kootenay Society for Handicapped Children, the organization’s name has changed to reflect the services it provides.
The direct service and advocacy organization – comprised of those who live with developmental disabilities, their families, friends, professionals, business representatives and other community supporters – provides residential settings, life skills, recreational opportunities, community support, advocacy and family support to Greater Trail residents.
There are 70 unionized workers who are employed to deliver various programs in the community; this does not include the non-unionized Career Development Services, which provides employment opportunities to individuals with barriers.
“It’s imperative that these services are available to people in the community,” said Gurr, who started with the organization in 1987 but became the executive director in 2002. “I love my job, I love working with people and seeing progress.”