Nfld. & Labrador

Coast guard workers rally for wage increase to combat rising inflation

With Canada's inflation rate currently sitting at 6.8 per cent — the highest it's been in 31 years — union president Chris Bussey says a smaller increase will translate to less in the pockets of workers over time.

Cost of living making things difficult for workers to support their families, union says

Three people stand in protest with signs that read "Respect," "Living wages," and "I support my bargaining team."
Canadian Coast Guard workers rallied outside the agency's headquarters Friday to call for better wages and wage parity in the sector. (Henrike Wilhelm/CBC)

About a dozen people rallied Friday outside the Canadian Coast Guard's St. John's headquarters to press for higher pay as well as wage parity, as workers cope with the rising cost of living.

"We're looking for wages that will keep up with the industry, but that will also keep up with inflation," said Chris Bussey, vice-president of the Atlantic region for the Union for Canadian Transport Workers.

"What we're being offered essentially amounts to a wage cut."

The union is currently at the bargaining table with the federal Treasury Board. Bussey said it wants to make sure the concerns of members are top of mind.

The Treasury Board offered the union and its members a pay increase at an average of 1.7 per cent per year until 2025, the union said.

With Canada's inflation rate sitting at 6.8 per cent — the highest it's been in 31 years — Bussey says that increase will translate to less disposable income in the pockets of workers.

The union, which falls under the Public Service Alliance of Canada, has countered with a 4.5 per cent wage increase, along with parity with other jobs in the sector.

In a statement to CBC News, the Treasury Board of Canada said they are committed to negotiating in good faith and are disappointed the union turned down their offer. The board says the union is asking for increases as high as 14 per cent per year across their bargaining groups. The federal department hopes an agreement can be reached at the bargaining table.

Bussey said the increase is needed to help workers handle soaring prices for gas and groceries, especially when it comes to supporting their families while they are at sea.

A man stands in front of about a dozen protesters.
Chris Bussey is the vice-president of the Atlantic region for the Union of Canadian Transport Workers. (Henrike Wilhelm/CBC)

"Everything we get here in Newfoundland and Labrador for the most part is brought in through some sort of transportation… and the cost for everything has gone up," he said. "That's a pretty significant jump in your household expenses."

Bussey said a wage boost is also needed to attract new blood into the sector, as the Coast Guard faces an aging fleet in more ways than one.

"If the coast guard wants to provide these services for Canadians that are so important, especially in a marine industry like Newfoundland and Labrador, they have pay staff so they can retain and recruit," he said.

"We're asking for respect."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Henrike Wilhelm

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