British Columbia

B.C. government workers to stage 1-day strike next week

An estimated 27,000 B.C. government workers will stage a one-day strike next Wednesday, officials with three public sector unions announced today.
BCGEU members are expected to stage more job actions in September. (BCGEU)

An estimated 27,000 B.C. government workers will stage a one-day strike next Wednesday, officials with three public sector unions announced today.

The job action by members of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union, the Professional Employees Association and the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union is the latest move in the ongoing contract disputes between public sector workers and the provincial government.

The strike is expected to affect 1,785 worksites, including liquor stores, courts, corrections, social workers, child protection and ICBC offices in 153 communities across B.C., but the unions say essential services will be maintained.

The action will be the latest in a series of one-day strikes staged by the BCGEU around the province this summer. BCGEU president Darryl Walker said the aim was to make the public aware of the work the unions do.

"We're trying to show the general public the services we provide. We haven't been on strike for over 20 years. Most people enjoy our services but probably somewhat take them for granted," said Walker.

Wage increases at centre of dispute

The BCGEU has been without a contract since March 31 and is seeking a 3.5 per cent wage increase this year and a cost of living increase next year.

The province has offered a total wage increase of 3.5 per cent over two years but the union rejected that offer, saying it would not keep up with inflation.

Walker says government workers have suffered a real wage cut of five percent since 2010.

"We are looking for a fair and reasonable agreement, but the government is not listening ... There can be no falling behind for all our government workers," said Walker.

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon, who incidently announced his resignation from cabinet on Wednesday, said the job action comes as no surprise.

"While disappointing, this job action is to be expected and is a normal part of the bargaining process. I expect we'll see further job action across the public sector throughout the fall," said Falcon.

He notes the global economic situation continues to put pressure on the B.C. budget.

"Government made a fair and reasonable offer in these negotiations," he said.

"It is irresponsible for the union to be asking for further wage increases given the uncertain world economic situation. We will not add to the deficit or raise taxes to pay unaffordable wage increases."