B.C. government workers' strike vote gets underway | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. government workers' strike vote gets underway

FILE PHOTO - BCGEU workers are seen walking a picket in Vancouver in this undated file photo.

The roughly 33,000 members for the British Columbia General Employees' Union are casting ballots in a strike vote over the next five weeks.

Negotiations between the parties reached impasse in early April primarily due to a significant gap in wage proposals, according to the union. The union has demanded a five percent wage increase, in line with inflation, while the B.C. Government offered a 1.5% increase in the first year and a two percent increase in 2023 and 2024.

“We’ve been clear from day one that cost of living protection for wages was the key to a deal this round,” said Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU and chair of the union’s public service bargaining committee, in a press release issued earlier this month.

“It’s a fair demand and we know government can afford it but the employer tabled two wage proposals that didn’t even get halfway there. This vote is a chance for our members to tell their employer what they think of those offers.”

The strike vote will be conducted over five weeks starting today, May 16, with the vote count scheduled for Wednesday, June 22.

The BCGEU began preparing for impasse and potential job action early in the bargaining process, including negotiating with the Public Service Agency to determine essential service levels in case of job action, according to the employees union.

The union is the first of many public sector unions to bargain with the government in 2022. In total, almost 400,000 public sector workers have agreements that will, or already have, expire this year, including those employed by the B.C. Wildfire Service and in the public health-care sector. 

"All unionized employees within the B.C. Wildfire Service are considered essential; therefore, if the BCGEU does strike it will have no impact on B.C. Wildfire Service operations," reads an email from fire information officer Erika Berg.

"The BCGEU fully supports our members working for BC Wildfire Service and their vital role in protecting people, property and local economies across the province and we will not advance any position in essential service negotiations that in our view would detract from the essential aspects of that role,” according to an emailed statement from the union.

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