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Community living workers to stage one-day strike

Adults with developmental disabilities were unable to access non-essential employment, community inclusion and life skills programs on Wednesday when the Burnaby offices of PosAbilities, at 4664 Lougheed Hwy., were behind picket lines.

The job action was part of a 24-hour work stoppage by 3,400 community living workers across British Columbia.

The workers, members of the BC Government Employees Union, provide support to adults, children and infants with disabilities as well as their families. They have been holding a series of rotating strikes since Oct. 12, and are seeking better wages and job security.

"Community living workers are caring professionals that make sure the people with developmental disabilities participate in their community and enjoy the best quality of life possible," said BCGEU community social services chairperson Patsy Harmston. "We enjoy working with people, but many of us can't make ends meet."

Harmston said starting wages are a dollar less an hour than they were 10 years ago, making it hard to recruit and retain trained staff.

But that's the card support agencies have been dealt, said Gentil Mateus, CEO of the Community Social Services Employers Association.

"It's difficult in today's economic environment to try to find the money within the sector to realize savings. It's not an easy task that requires the collaboration of the union to find efficiencies."

Harmston said the squeeze reduced government funding is putting on community living and other community-based social services is taking a toll. More than 40 per cent of the union's members said in a recent survey they had to cut services or supports they considered necessary for clients' health, safety or well-being.

"Staff agree that additional funding is urgently needed to address the chronic program and support shortages in community living."

Essential services were maintained during the job action. Workers also rallied at the Richmond headquarters of the Developmental Disabilities Association.

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