B.C. Government workers across the province will go on strike on Wednesday Sept. 5. The B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU), Professional Employees Association (PEA) and Canadian Office & Professional Employees Union (COPE) Local 378 announced the strike, Wednesday, Aug. 29.
Approximately 27,000 BCGEU, PEA and COPE 378 members who work for the B.C. government will go on strike in 153 communities and 1785 government worksites across B.C. including Williams Lake.
The strike will last all day.
Oliver Rohifs, BCGEU communications officer, told the Tribune the strike means public government liquor stores will be picketed and closed on Wednesday.
“Service BC counters and the like will be picketed with minimal service levels. So we’ll be encouraging people if they can, to do their business on another day because there will be longer waits for the public,” Rohifs explained.
For the rest of the government there are essential service levels and the union has looked at those with the employer to determine what is needed to keep BC safe and healthy.
“For example, forest firefighters are not going off the job. Child protection workers in the Ministry of Children and Family Development are not going off the job. Other workers, who are deemed non-essential will be and the buildings will be picketed,” Rohifs said.
In a press release issued by the union, BCGEU president Darryl Walker said “workers are looking for a fair and reasonable agreement, but the government is not listening. We have no choice but to send a clear message on September 5: there can be no more falling behind for all government workers. We’ve not taken the decision to strike lightly. Our last strike in direct government was over 20 years ago.”
The union said since 2010, B.C. government workers have suffered a real wage cut of five percent. The government’s last offer, which has been withdrawn, would see pay cheques fall further behind inflation.
“Our professional members have in almost all cases chosen public service because of their commitment to serving the public,” said Scott McCannell, PEA Executive Director. “Without some protections to stop a clear trend of downsizing licensed professionals in the public service, the public interest will not be served. Our members will be taking job action for the first time in their 38 year history to send a message to the government that this issue needs to be addressed and that we need a fair settlement.”
“We’ve exhausted our other options with ICBC and the provincial government,” said COPE 378 President David Black. “Our members have spent over two years without a collective agreement doing more work for less pay.”
The BCGEU represents 25,000 direct government workers. The PEA represents over 1,200 licensed professionals employed directly in BC’s public service. COPE 378 represents about 4,600 workers at the Insurance Corporation of BC, a crown corporation.