Gov’t Reneged on Wage Promises, Say Community Social Service Agencies; Ministry counters it never agreed to chip in for raises prior to May election

Tom Sandborn, The Tyee


Lilla Tipton says she was misled in last spring’s pre-election bargaining between the provincial government and agencies like hers, the Powell River Association for Community Living.

Now, her agency and the other 200 community social service-sector agencies across British Columbia are whipsawed between the higher wages they’ve been paying since April — on the basis of what they believed was a government funding commitment — and budgets already diminished by earlier cuts.

The crunch may lead to a reduction in services to vulnerable and often developmentally-challenged B.C. residents, Tipton said.

“On the one hand, the government says we can’t reduce any direct services, but these new, unfunded [wage increases] come on top of earlier cuts. We lost a million dollars a year in the 2009 budget. It is hard to see where the money is going to come from,” Tipton said in an interview.

Tipton argues that prior to the May election, the agencies were assured the province would provide extra funding to cover the cost of a proposed three per cent wage increase under negotiation with their unionized workers….

Tipton said that she and other agency officials would never have urged their boards to approve new staff wage levels without a guarantee that the government would fund raises….

“They broke their promises to us,” Tipton said. “Now we are being told that there will be no new money coming and we have to find the money for raises in our existing budgets. We’ve been paying the new wage rates since April.”

Tipton said that her agency already experienced serious cuts to its funding, up to a million dollars each year, in 2009. “We already had no money to replace vehicles or other capital expenses under the previous cuts,” she said.

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