Assisted living workers allegedly attacked while picketing

BCGEU president Stephanie Smith says arrows and gasoline were thrown at the picketers early in the week

Assisted living workers will be “beefing up” their Courtenay picket line after picketers were allegedly attacked early in the week.

Casa Loma Seniors Village and Comox Valley Seniors Village workers have been taking targeted job action at the two assisted living facilities since Sunday, Dec. 2, including manning a picket line along Headquarters Road.

READ MORE: Assisted living workers go on strike for fair wages

According to BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) president, Stephanie Smith, workers were out on the picket lines during an evening shift when arrows were shot at the line and gasoline was thrown in their direction. She says the RCMP were called.

“Picket lines can be places of heightened emotion for sure,” said Smith. “We’ve had incidents of cars trying to run through our lines… there’s often verbal assaults, that sort of thing, but certainly never like this.”

The picketers have resumed their rotating strikes and the BCGEU has put out the call for more members to come out and support the picketing workers.

“Immediately, we sent an email out to all our members in the area asking them to come and support the line, particularly on the evening shifts. We’ve asked that we are closely monitoring to ensure the safety of our picketers,” she said, adding that there is safety in numbers.

Smith could not give an update on the status of the negotiations between the BCGEU and the employer, Pacific Reach Seniors Housing Management. However, she hopes that Comox Valley residents will remember these workers are taking job action in order to offer better support to the people in their care.

“These workers are striking to improve the working conditions there, but also to improve the quality of care that these residents receive by ensuring that they have proper staffing levels and that they are able to recruit and retain workers at these centres,” said Smith. “I can’t even begin to try and understand the mindset of people who would do this – risk the lives and safety of workers who are exercising the constitutional right to run a picket line in support of their bargaining.”

A request for comment has been sent to the Comox Valley RCMP. The story will be updated when more information is available.

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