Front-line ministry social workers in hard-to-recruit areas of the province like Williams Lake and Bella Coola will receive an additional $3,000 to $6,000 per year, thanks to a new agreement between government and the BC Government and Service Employees Union (BCGEU).
The agreement provides a $6,000 annual lump-sum payment to senior ministry social workers and a $3,000 annual payment to ministry social workers with less than two years of experience, who live and work in rural or remote communities with demonstrated recruitment and retention challenges.
The list of MCFD-designated hard-to-recruit communities includes: Bella Coola, Waglisla/Bella Bella, Golden, Invermere, Nakusp, Burns Lake, Fort St. James, Mackenzie, McBride, Vanderhoof, Chetwynd, Fort Nelson, Port Hardy, Dease Lake, Hazelton, Kitimat, Prince Rupert, Queen Charlotte, Smithers, Terrace, Princeton, 100 Mile House, Ashcroft, Clearwater, Lillooet, Merritt, Revelstoke and Williams Lake.
The first payments under the new incentive program will be made to eligible regular ministry employees in April 2017. Location-specific incentive pay is virtually unique in the B.C. civil service.
The incentive program recognizes the significant impact that child-protection social workers have on the children, families and communities they serve. This new pilot program is part of the ministry’s strategy to support its employees and ensure the quality and availability of services throughout the province, consistent with the direction of the December 2015 Plecas Report. Senior representatives from government and the BCGEU have also agreed to discuss specific Plecas Report recommendations on social worker compensation, beginning March 1, 2017.
As of March 31, 2016, there were 1,963 front-line social work staff positions in ministry offices throughout the province; 250 of those positions belong to social workers serving in hard-to-recruit rural and remote areas where staff retention is an issue. Between November 2014 and April 2016, the ministry hired 200 new front-line staff and has committed to hiring 100 more by the end of this fiscal year.