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VIDEO: B.C. public service workers begin job action amid bargaining breakdown

BCGEU president Stephanie Smith part of picket lineat the BC Liquor Distribution Branch’s centre in Delta

Roughly 1,000 of an estimated 33,000 B.C. public service employees have stationed themselves at picket lines across B.C., as part of the first phase of job action amid breakdowns in bargaining with the Public Service Agency.

At the Delta Distribution Centre, dozens walked off the job at 3:30 p.m. on Monday (Aug. 15) and took their place on the picket line, signs in hand, with many also wearing t-shirts demanding “COLA” (cost of living adjustments) from their employer.

While retail liquor and cannabis stores are not part of this phase of job action, the BCGEU said in a statement earlier Monday that BC Liquor Distribution Branch distribution and wholesale centres in Delta, Richmond, Kamloops and Victoria are.

The cannabis division wholesale centre in Burnaby is also part of the job action, but there will not be a picket line at that location.

The contract between the BCGEU and the Public Service Agency expired April 1 and there have been sporadic talks since April 6, but the union rejected an invitation from the agency for another meeting last week, saying it would “not be fruitful.”

In addition to wage increases, union president Stephanie Smith said wage protection is the top concern of her members as inflation climbs dramatically.

“It’s nothing more than MLAs in Victoria already enjoy,” Smith told reporters Monday afternoon. “They’ve enjoyed wage protection since 2007; we’re simply asking for the same for the people who work for the government of B.C.”

Smith said she remains hopeful the government will call the union back to the bargaining table with a proposal that meets members’ demands.

“The goal isn’t to go on strike. The goal is get a collective agreement.”

BELOW: Watch Smith, National Union of Public and General Employees secretary-treasurer Jason McLean, BCGEU vice-president of retail stores and warehouses Kusam Doal and treasurer Paul Finch address striking workers at the Delta Distribution Centre Monday afternoon.

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