Union and government will return to negotiations May 23
Members of British Columbia's biggest public sector union have voted 82 per cent in favour of striking.
The 25,000 workers — represented by the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union (BCGEU) — are employed in areas such as corrections, liquor stores and child protection.
“We’re very happy our members have given us a strong strike mandate to take back to the bargaining table on May 23 in Vancouver,” said BCGEU president Darryl Walker. “If the government doesn’t move on its proposals, we’ll be forced to consider job action.”
The key issue in the dispute is wages.
“Our members haven’t had a general pay increase in three years. Inflation has reduced their spending power by more than five per cent,” Walker said.
Wages are the main issue at the bargaining table for all B.C. civil servants and employees of government-funded organizations. They have been operating under a three-year wage freeze.
The government has said new contracts can contain wage increases, but only through “co-operative gains.” That is, if savings or increased revenue can be found somewhere else within the sector, wages can go up.
Yesterday, more than 1,200 licensed professionals working for British Columbia’s ministries of Forests and Natural Resources, Transportation, and Environment voted 92 per cent in favour of a strike mandate.
Like most of the province’s 300,000 civil servants, the BCGEU’s previous collective agreement expired March 31.