Constituency assistants for the B.C. NDP’s 57 MLAs could issue strike notice this week to back their demands for wage parity with federal counterparts and caucus employees.
They voted 94% to strike at the end of June. Mediation reached an impasse and two-thirds voted at the end of July against a settlement offer from the B.C. NDP Government caucus.
A strike committee is pondering next steps, said Paul Finch, treasurer of the B.C. General Employees’ Union (formerly the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union).
“In case they decide to strike, we’re prepared to support those efforts and obviously they’ll have the whole union standing behind them,” Finch said.
“We’re very determined to get this wage correction and these are very difficult jobs, very critical jobs. CAs want to make sure they’re compensated fairly with their provincial and federal counterparts, they want to do that for the community and the community that they serve.”
Wages under the previous collective agreement ranged, as of Jan. 1, 2020, from $48,490.42 for starters to $57,466.64 for the most-senior. Finch said NDP caucus workers start at $52,635 and federal NDP constituency assistants $55,560.
Constituency assistants for the 28 BC Liberal and two BC Green MLAs are not unionized.
Finch said talks also include changing the job title to “constituency advisors.”
“They do a lot of case work for the community, they’re kind of the glue or the integrated communication between people that are having difficulty accessing core government services and people that provide those services,” Finch said. “These are very precarious positions. CAs, if their MLA retires or isn’t elected, they don’t have a job to go back to necessarily.”
In a prepared statement, NDP Government Caucus executive director Roseanne Moran said MLAs “remain committed to continuing to work towards an agreement with the union.”
“B.C. NDP MLAs recognize that our constituency staff provide great service to communities across the province,” Moran said. “Since bargaining began in September 2020, we have addressed a range of issues and made progress. We respect that our staff, like all unionized workers, have a right to engage in job action should they choose to.”
Meanwhile, BCGEU is also in talks with head office workers represented by MoveUp. According to MoveUp, both sides hit a roadblock on July 22 on four issues: work from home, health and welfare benefits, wage increases and training premiums.
“There’s not a lot to report at this time,” Finch said.
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