Some Shuswap residents fear being trapped as strike by Adams Lake ferry workers looms | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Some Shuswap residents fear being trapped as strike by Adams Lake ferry workers looms

Works on the Adams Lake ferry could go on strike leaving those who rely on the service without any way in our out of their communities.
Image Credit: Province of B.C.
September 13, 2019 - 12:08 PM

ADAMS LAKE - Residents of the small communities on Adams Lake in the Shuswap are hoping for the best and planning for the worst as they await a decision regarding a possible ferry service strike.

Ferry service may halt if the Labour Relations Board leans in favour of the ferry worker’s union over a company that operates the 24-hour, on-demand ferry on Adams Lake. The ferry workers, members of the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union, want better working conditions and Waterbridge, the company that oversees ferry operations, wishes the service to continue as is.

When Heather Brown moved to the area around 20 years ago and began building her home, there was road access to her property. Due to a protest by the Adam's Lake Indian Band in 1995, the bridge connecting the small communities to the rest of the world was burned.

After that, the residents began using the cable ferry service to travel between the small communities and Chase.

She says a strike could leave her community with no access to groceries, doctors or other amenities located across the lake.

“We're just trying to figure out how this could not be an essential service when there's no other way to get in and out of there," Brown says.

Residents of Woolford Point, Dorian Bay and nearby areas attended a community meeting last night, Sept. 12, to discuss possible solutions if they find themselves without the ferry service.

She says there are 25 lots in Woolford Point and around 30 in Dorian Bay, with more in other nearby areas.

“The union lawyer says we should be using our own boats to get in and out of there,” Brown says. “Where is everybody going to park on this side of the ferry and where are the boats going to park to pick you up the next day or when you get off work?”

Some of her neighbours have boats but not enough to accommodate the travel needs of all the communities.

“People do have pontoon boats but are they going to get up at 6:30 in the morning to take me to work for 7 o’clock? I don't think so.”

Brown points out that the majority of the citizens in the small communities serviced by the ferry are senior citizens and notes that the lake can be very dangerous. She says high winds and waves can pick up quickly and residents fear for their safety in such situations.

She has voiced her concerns to a representative from the union and was asked about how much vacation time she had. She says the representative was implying that she should use her vacation time if there is a strike.

“My holiday time is my holiday time,” she says.

Stephanie Smith, president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union, says the privatization of inland ferry services under the previous Liberal government has resulted in lower-quality training, safety and career development.

“Their wages have fallen far behind others in the marine industry,” Smith says. “There hasn't been any investment in either the wages or the training opportunities.”

Inland ferry workers from various areas are striking or considering such action in hopes of better working conditions. A service disruption on Kootenay Lake over Labour Day weekend is now considered a legal strike with regular ferry service returning although the workers are still calling for better conditions.

“I was up at Kootenay Lake on the first day of their job action there, and what we heard from community members is that they understand that it’s the sustainability of these ferries that our members are really fighting for. Our members who work on these ferries, they live in these communities. Their friends and family live in these and utilize these ferries so they are fighting to keep these ferries going and operational,” Smith says.

Emergency ferry service will continue even in a strike situation but it is unclear what daily transportation will look like for the residents.

It's also unclear when the Labour Relations Board will make a decision.

Waterbridge, the company that oversees the ferry operation on Adam’s Lake, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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