Thursday April 28, 2022 | VICTORIA, BC
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
A non-profit society that provides housing and community-based services to those experiencing poverty and homelessness in the Greater Victoria area have banded together as unionized employees within the BC General Employees’ Union (BCGEU).
The announcement about the 260 Our Place Society (OPS) workers was released yesterday, April 27. The vote by the OPS workers was conducted last Friday, April 22.
OPS is based in Victoria, BC where the cost of housing far out-strips the ability of most people to remain within the realm of affordability for their housing needs.
Our Place Society is one of the largest Victoria-area service providers for people experiencing homelessness.
“Every worker deserves the protection and power of a union,” said BCGEU President Stephanie Smith in a BCGEU news release yesterday.
Health & safety, staff shortages:
Workers had been looking for improvements to health and safety as their work front line with vulnerable clients, it was stated by BCGEU. Staffing shortages are also cited as a problem.
The Society shut down its drop-in services temporarily last September after a staff member was assaulted. “Workers say conditions have not improved,” it was stated by BCGEU. Two health crises are of course a challenge to deal with on the front line — the opioid crisis and the COVID pandemic.
Serving the sector:
In addition to Our Place Society as BCGEU’s newest member, the union also represents over 500 workers at Victoria CoolAid Society, Beacon Community Services, and the Salvation Army. BCGEU says its goal is to continue organizing to improve working conditions across the sector of community social services and community health workers.