Professional Employees Association (PEA) members in Williams Lake participated in a public information session Tuesday at the provincial government building on Borland Street to raise awareness of the importance of licensed professionals in the public service.
The campaign was part of rallies held across the province a day before the association returned for two days of bargaining Wednesday and Thursday.
Martin Sills, an employee for the Ministry of Agriculture, said he has seen the number of professionals working in government steadily decline.
When he first arrived in Williams Lake in 1977, there were 60 professional employees working for the provincial government.
Today there are about 35.
“We’re shrinking rapidly and the impacts to the public won’t be felt until there’s a problem and no one caught it in time. That’s what we’re here for, to catch issues in time. I know when I retire they won’t be replacing me. I’ve been told that,” Sills said.
He estimated the BCGEU is roughly 24,000 strong, while the PEA is roughly 1,200 strong.
“There’s a ratio of one to 20. In the past two years alone, the PEA has been reduced by 10 per cent. The BCGEU has been increased by one and half per cent. Why is the government trying to decrease the professionals that are dedicated to the safety and security of the public sector?” Sills said.
“The job action is not to ask for more money. It’s the de-professionalization that’s got us very concerned because the job cuts that are within the PEA are significant.”
Over time through various efficiency programs and budgetary restraints, there has been an erosion of the number of licensed professionals within government, said Harry Jennings, PEA employee with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
That’s a worry for professionals, Jennings added, because professionals have to answer to a broader set of public objectives, that cannot be encompassed by a single professional working for a company.
“Our accountability to the public as a whole is to the legislature. All professionals inside and outside of government work to a code of ethics and do a great job, but working in the public service requires you to look to a broader set of value objectives,” Jennings said, adding while some tentative union agreements have been signed that have yet to be ratified, the PEA has not.
“Yesterday and today through a poster campaign and here doing a bit of a rally we’re trying to raise the profile of our group both within our office and outside,” Jennings added.