Re: “Equal pay for equal work,” Letters, April 18; “Lower pay for non-union employees irks RSCL,” News, April 25.
Janice Barr, the Executive Director of the Richmond Society for Community Living (RSCL), is disingenuous on several fronts. In her letter published last week, she states that “through the process of collective bargaining, the provincial government agreed to provide funding increases” as though this were some mysterious phenomenon in which the unionized frontline workers are missing. As a sometime member of the employers’ bargaining committee, she knows differently.
She also says that she wants to see people compensated based on the work they complete, not based on being a union member or not.
In other words, she wants to undermine the entire collective bargaining system, eliminating the rationale for unions entirely. In truth, unions in this sector have achieved what she and other employers have not negotiated: funding for fair wages and benefits from the provincial government.
Community social service workers who belong to unions pay dues and agree to act collectively to bargain more powerfully. They have taken job action to further their demands, including a landmark 11-week strike in 1999. They had their constitutional rights violated by the BC Liberals with Bill 29 and had hard-won collective agreements torn up, wages gutted, and benefits sacrificed. I don’t recall any public outrage or even letters to the editor from Ms. Barr or other employers when the Liberals tore up collective agreements and cut services and jobs.
The truth is the current non-union staff at RSCL have a choice. They can join a union (hopefully without the interference from the boss), and act collectively, pooling their power and paying dues with the result that they achieve better outcomes like their co-workers who are union members. Or, they can decide to act as free agents and rely on the goodwill of their employer and the government of the day.