I would like to comment on the strike at Strathcona Gardens and the remarks made by the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) to the media.
While it is factually correct that several municipalities have signed collective agreements with pay increases of approximately two per cent being the norm most of those agreements were signed prior to the pandemic.
However, the recent remarks from SRD are rather disingenuous given the current situation. Hats off to the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 union for bringing forth a very important narrative that SRD is trying to avoid.
Wages for municipal and regional district union employees here in Campbell River are lower than other locations on the island. The argument pre-pandemic was that the cost of living in Campbell River was far cheaper so it was still attractive for newcomers even with the lower wages.
Campbell River saw approximately a 30 per cent increase in house prices this past year. The new homes being built here in the City are far beyond the first-time homebuyer. The new one-bedroom apartments are now renting at $1,600 plus per month and two-bedroom Apartments are now over $1,800 per month.
According to recent reporting in the media the shock of BC Assessments up and down Vancouver Island are proof that the entire Island is quickly becoming unaffordable.
Since the pandemic, people living in large expensive cities have sold their very expensive homes and moved to small communities like Campbell River. Many still work at their high-paying jobs and are able to work remotely. So they can afford the high costs of homes or apartments here in Campbell River.
However, the average municipal or regional district jobs are not high paying. Many are paying in the $30’s to $40’s per hour. A number of those jobs also require considerable university or college education. With the average rent for new one bedroom apartments in Campbell River now approaching over $1,600 per month that is half or almost half of a month’s wages for many.
It is a known fact that the salaries for management have continued to increase at alarming rates. I understand that a good manager needs to be well paid. However, managers are only as good as the staff they manage. Without fair compensation for the general workforce, how do municipalities and regional districts hope to continue providing services to the public?
With a lack of well-paying jobs here in Campbell River, and a very high cost of living I do not see how it will be possible to attract young families to this area. This ability to being able to attract young families to Campbell River should be as fundamental as attracting experienced managers. Yet, based on the comments in the media from the SRD they are seeing no urgencies with regards to the wages offered.
Municipal and regional district employees have been lagging behind in wages for years here in Campbell River and it’s about time that equitable collective agreements are reached. Without some substantive changes in wages how far down the road is it before the cost of living is completely out of reach for the average person here in Campbell River?
I believe that time has already come!
Level entry city planners, level entry building inspectors, bylaw officers are paid well below $38 per hour. Administrative staff who are equally as important are paid far less. Staff who support expensive infrastructures, and buildings are in the same boat. Many do not earn a wage that is greater than $36 per hour yet they service and ensure those multi-million dollar infrastructures such as water, sewer and roads and other facilities continue to function without a hitch. The parks staff that keep all the city’s green spaces looking fantastic earn wages of approx $32 per hour.
With elections coming in Oct. 2022 for both the City of Campbell River and Strathcona Regional District they will need to grapple with the narrative that there is a serious disparity between wages and the cost of living in Campbell River.
I sincerely believe that all the unions here on Vancouver island need to support the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937. Their fight will affect all unions here on Vancouver Island and we all need to show solidarity for the brothers and sisters of United Steelworkers Local 1-1937.