For 3 months, the Kootenay Lake ferry strike made a tough commute worse. Now it's over
About 80 workers voted over the weekend in favour of a 5-year contract
Residents on the East Shore of Kootenay Lake in British Columbia are relieved that a three-month ferry strike is over.
The workers that run the ferry between Kootenay Bay and Balfour agreed to a new five-year contract over the weekend.
The deal came as a welcome news for people like Meagan Rokeby-Thomas, owner of Ladybug Coffee at the eastern terminus of the ferry route.
"My initial reaction was relief that we weren't going to have to go with the uncertainty of the ferries any more," Rokeby-Thomas said.
The strike didn't mean an all-out stop to ferry service, because the route is considered an essential service, but it curtailed sailings to the point residents struggled to get to work, school or medical appointments in Nelson and other locations on the other side of the lake.
Lives in turmoil
Rokeby-Thomas was one of several people who said the ferry cancellations put their lives in turmoil, and for business owners like her, the strike had an immediate impact on the number of customers who could make it to her establishment.
Rokeby-Thomas said residents are going to resurrect a ferry committee so locals have more say over what happens to the ferry.
Workers had been without a contract since March. Overtime and wages were among the sticking points for workers during the strike. Western Pacific Marine, which runs the ferry, said it couldn't afford the increases demanded by the union.
The union banned overtime during the dispute. But since the ferry is an essential route, the Labour Relations Board ordered a minimum of three crossings on weekdays.
Under normal circumstances, ferries would conduct 10 return trips across the lake each day during winter.
Workers on two other smaller Kootenay Lake ferries voted in favour of the deal. They were also on strike but were deemed an essential service and didn't take any job action.
The Liberal government under Gordon Campbell privatized the running of inland ferries.
With files from Bob Keating