British Columbia

BC Ferries reverses course on hundreds of layoffs

BC Ferries has rescinded layoff notices for 400 to 500 permanent employees who lost their jobs in early April, though the rest of the 1,400 workers who who were laid off will remain off the job.

BC Ferries has rescinded layoff notices for all permanent employees who lost their jobs in early April

B.C. Ferries has rescinded hundreds of layoff notices to permanent employees, after 1,400 workers were let go in early April. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

BC Ferries is rescinding layoff notices for all permanent employees who were let go in early April, but all casual workers who lost their jobs will remain out of work.

The reversal comes after the layoffs were disputed by the union representing the workers.

According to BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall, permanent employees make up between 400 and 500 of the 1,400 workers who were laid off after a sudden drop in traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The rescission of layoff notices has proceeded as an act of company support for our valuable employees at this uncertain time," Marshall said in a written statement.

For Graeme Johnston, provincial president of B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers Union, the change is welcome, but it came without consultation with the union — something that led to a grievance in the first place.

"We view this as a positive step toward recognizing the employees and our members, and we think it's an important step for them to mitigate any damages that may come as a result of litigation," said Johnston.

The union calls the layoffs illegal, since they happened without negotiation and without following the collective agreement, according to Johnston. It has filed grievances and a complaint at the Labour Relations Board against the employer.

He said workers with more than 30 years of seniority were laid off, while junior employees continued on the job.

Johnston said the workers who have had their layoff notices rescinded will be furloughed at 75 per cent of their wages until they return to work, when they'll receive full pay.

He said the union expected job losses, but that it came as a surprise that the decision was made unilaterally by BC Ferries, without discussion.

"There are a lot of members that have been pretty stunned by all this," said Johnston.

BC Ferries said in a statement that it remains unclear whether the company is eligible for federal wage support, but casual employees who remain laid off will be able to apply for employment insurance and the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit.

With files from All Points West

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