Members of B.C. public-sector unions including BCGEU to stage one-day strike
About 27,000 B.C. government workers from across the province will be staging a one-day strike next week, three public-sector unions announced today (August 29).
An estimated 25,000 members of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU), 1,250 members of the Professional Employees Association (PEA), and 720 members of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union Local 378 (COPE 378) will be a part of the strike in 153 B.C. communities during regular government working hours on September 5.
Darryl Walker, the president of the BCGEU, said the strike action is about wages for union members, who have been without a contract since March 31.
The union is asking for a 3.5 percent wage increase this year, and a cost of living increase next year. The government previously offered a wage increase of 3.5 percent over two years, but that offer has since been withdrawn.
“We’re striking because we’re looking for a fair and reasonable agreement with this government, and we believe that that the Government of British Columbia is not listening to us,” he said at a news conference in downtown Vancouver with David Black, the president of COPE 378, and Scott McCannell, the executive director of the PEA.
Black indicated Insurance Corporation of B.C. employees represented by his union will be picketing at 21 different locations around B.C. He said the union hopes the job action will “send a strong message” to the B.C. government.
“We’ve spent month after month in bargaining with ICBC, looking for a fair and reasonable settlement that addresses our concerns around contracting out, workload and fair wages,” he said.
“We’ve exhausted our other options. Our members have spent two years without a contract, doing more work for less pay, while everyone else is getting increases.”
Next week’s strike follows three rotating job actions that were staged by BCGEU members around the province this summer. The strike next Wednesday is expected to impact 1,785 government work sites in the province.
Examples of services that will be closed for the day include government liquor stores and permit centres for forestry, lands and natural resources. Residents needing to renew their drivers’ licenses will be able to do so, but those services are expected to be slower during the one-day strike.
Walker stressed that all essential service levels will be maintained during the one-day action.
“We want to identify that the health, safety and welfare of British Columbians will not be impacted by this job action,” he said.
Outgoing finance minister Kevin Falcon said the B.C. government has told the unions that "now is absolutely the wrong time" to be asking for wage increases.
"For the public-sector unions to think that now is the time to be going to the taxpayer and demanding wage increases that are unaffordable is so divorced from reality I am frankly staggered that they still continue to talk that way," he told reporters.
Falcon announced today that he is stepping down as finance minister effective immediately, and that he will not be running in the next provincial election.
With files from Stephen Thomson.