By Jeff Nagel
A one-day strike on Wednesday, Sept. 5 has seen 27,000 unionized government workers walk off the job in a bid to apply more pressure in negotiations with the province.
In Revelstoke, pickets were up at the BC Liquor Store, the transportation ministry office on First Street West and the forests ministry office in the Big Eddy.
Courts, jails, ICBC offices and government liquor stores are among more than 1,700 affected worksites, although essential services will be maintained.
The Sept. 5 job action was ordered by leaders of the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union (BCGEU), the Professional Employees Association and the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union.
“We do not take this action lightly,” said BCGEU president Darryl Walker. “There will be no more falling behind for government workers.”
The BCGEU is seeking a 3.5 per cent pay hike this year and a cost of living increase in 2013, following the expiry of its last contract on March 31.
The province had offered two per cent in the first year and 1.5 per cent in the second – a package Victoria has since taken off the table.
The union contends its members lost ground against inflation over the past two years due to the previous contract signed in 2010 under a net-zero mandate as B.C. was struggling to recover from recession.
“We took two zeros in 2010 and 2011 that really look at a wage cut of around five per cent when you look at the cost of living,” Walker said.
The government has countered it made a fair and reasonable offer given that B.C. remains under fiscal pressure due to the lacklustre global economy.
PHOTO: BC Liquor Store employees Jody Mitchell (left) and Kim Phelps picket at the Campbell Avenue outlet on Sept. 5.
Smaller single-day strikes have been staged at more selective public sector targets earlier this summer.
The BCGEU has also proposed fiscal reforms such as Sunday liquor store openings and the use of sheriffs for traffic enforcement.
— with contributions from Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Times Review