VICTORIA, British Columbia, Oct. 03, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Today, the union representing 1200 scientists and engineers working for the BC public service started negotiating a new collective agreement.
“After a decade and a half of cutting professionals and decimating science-based decision making in the provincial government, we’re taking the issue of scientific integrity to the bargaining table,” said Scott McCannell, Executive Director and Chief Negotiator of the Professional Employees Association (PEA). “We want to put language in the contract that recognizes the value of science in public policy decision making.”
Since 2001, the number of science officers working for the BC public service was reduced by 25 per cent. The union is seeking an increase in these numbers to restore capacity.
In 2017, Evidence for Democracy (E4D) released a report, Oversight at Risk, highlighting the state of science in the BC public service. The report found that the main challenge for provincial scientific integrity in BC is cutbacks to capacity within the public service, which impedes the government’s ability to fulfill their responsibility for regulatory oversight. The recommendations from the report included increasing public service research capacity.
“The federal government enshrined science integrity in collective agreements with federal government scientists. It’s time for the provincial governments to make the same commitment,” said Kathleen Walsh, E4D Director of Policy.
In June, the BC government released the Professional Reliance Review. The professional reliance model was adopted by the former BC government in the context of an extensive plan to reduce “red tape” by eliminating environmental and health protection laws. Among other things, this review emphasized the need to identify opportunities to improve ministry staffing levels and resources to enhance government oversight.
“The government is being presented with a golden opportunity to make a strong commitment towards addressing the broken professional reliance system,” said Bob Peart, Chair of the Professional Reliance Working Group of Concerned Citizens. “A well-staffed professional public service means the government can once again reclaim a leadership role in resource and environmental stewardship.”
“We’re looking forward to working with this government to restore scientific capacity in the public service,” said McCannell. “This will have a direct impact on our members and their ability to provide sustainable, quality public services to the people of BC.”
The PEA is a labour union that represents over 1200 scientists and engineers working for the BC public service including engineers, foresters, geoscientists, agrologists and more.