Over the past few years, one of the most intentional and important areas of focus for The Federation has been the strength and sustainability of the community social services sector.
Earlier this year, many were taken by surprise when government funding for wages negotiated under the most recent collective agreement did not include an equivalent wage increase for all workers in the sector.
As we have made very clear on several occasions, The Federation is very concerned about the impact this will have on labour market conditions in a sector that is already struggling with recruitment and retention of skilled, qualified workers.
The Federation has long been focusing much of our advocacy efforts on issues related to procurement, labour market development, and increased costs of doing business. And this development added yet another burden to a sector that is already struggling to meet the growing needs of our communities.
The impact of advocacy
After several months of intense advocacy and engagement, the provincial government convened a roundtable of sector advocates to discuss these issues and how they might be addressed.
This meeting included The Federation, PARCA, the Ending Violence Association of BC, the BC CEO Network and the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres. (Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, has been given responsibility for leading this process on behalf of the other social care Ministries, the Ministry of Finance, and the Public Sector Employer’s Council.)
This is an opportunity The Federation has been working very hard toward for many years. Compensation for the sector is very much on the table but this is also our opportunity to raise other important issues related to the overall and long-term strength and sustainability of our sector—things like funding for adequate training and supervision, levels of administration funding in contracts, increased funding for off-reserve Indigenous organizations, and equal access to services and supports for Indigenous individuals who are not living or connected to their Nation.
A small working group of roundtable members has been struck including a representative of The Federation. To date, the working group has met three times and has committed to taking actionable recommendations back to the larger roundtable.
The next roundtable meeting is on August 1st. I will be sharing progress and developments with our members as things move forward.
Taking advantage of this opportunity
A fundamental part of our approach to our advocacy and engagement efforts at The Federation is to create the conditions for change so that when opportunities (such as this one) present themselves, we are ready and able to take full advantage of them.
The sad truth is that many of the issues we are currently dealing with could have been avoided or mitigated had this roundtable been convened earlier. And we are making sure that this fact is fully and completely understood by everyone at the table.
But these urgent compensation issues have opened a door; they have given us a starting point and a platform from which begin to address the labour market crisis in our sector and inform social policy development. The entire Federation team—both staff and board members—have been preparing for a moment like this for years and we are taking advantage of this opportunity.
We are raising the complex issues that plague our sector and we are working hard to create a new, more collaborative, and stronger relationship between the government and our sector.
If you have questions about this work or want more information about the roundtable, please feel free to contact me.