Over 500 workers with BC non-profit housing operator Atira join union

May 30 2023, 11:23 pm

Nearly three weeks after employees with Atira Women’s Resource Society first launched a bid to unionize, they have successfully done so.

On Monday, over 500 workers with Atira officially joined BC General Employees’ Union (BCGEU).

As Atira receives most of its funding from the provincial government, their workers were eligible to join one of BC’s largest unions.

“The BCGEU is honoured to welcome these women and gender diverse workers to our union,” said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith in a statement. “I’m so impressed by the work they have done to stand up for better conditions at work and for the women that rely on Atira housing.”

Workers of the non-profit housing society — the largest service provider for provincial crown corporation BC Housing — first announced the launch of their unionization campaign earlier this month, just days after Premier David Eby and BC Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon’s bombshell press conference outlining the findings of a forensic investigation on the previous relationship between Atira and BC Housing’s leaders.

For years, workers have taken issue with poor and unsafe conditions within Atira’s vast social and supportive housing portfolio.

The Winters Hotel SRO in Gastown was one of the numerous Atira-operated buildings. It was completely destroyed in a deadly fire in April 2022.

By unionizing, according to BCGEU, Atira workers can now push collectively to address safety concerns, short staffing, and other living and working conditions in the non-profit housing operator’s properties. With the addition of Atira, BCGEU now represents over 4,000 supportive housing workers, including the frontline workers at Raincity Housing and Support Society and Lookout Housing and Health Society.

The gravity of Atira’s mismanagement and conflict of interest issues has forced the provincial government to take action, including conducting a new detailed review of Atira’s finances and operations and temporarily suspending any new contract awards and existing contract renewals.

Atira’s board initially expressed defiance in the face of the provincial government’s investigation findings, but they have since taken on a more conciliatory approach, agreeing to the provincial government’s terms including a change of their leadership. Longtime CEO Janice Abbott has now been replaced with interim CEO Catherine Roome.

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