BCGEU sheriffs have been recruited by police departments, leading to union calls for pay increases. (Black Press files)

B.C. public service union settlement first of many

Three-year deal with BCGEU includes 2% annual wage increases

Members of B.C.’s main public service union are preparing to vote on a three-year agreement, the first of a long series of contract talks facing the new NDP government.

The B.C. Government and Service Employees Union reached a tentative settlement this week for 26,500 public sector employees, including 4,200 employees of the Liquor Distribution Branch and 480 at the B.C. Pension Corp.

BCGEU president Stephanie Smith confirmed social media reports that the agreement includes a two per cent general wage increase in each of the three years, and targeted increases for some classifications that have had problems recruiting and keeping workers. The union has been outspoken about a shortage of sheriffs who work at provincial courthouses, and the chronic difficulty hiring and keeping child protection social workers.

Smith wouldn’t comment on the classifications getting extra money, except to say there were several and the union got agreements on “some, certainly not all.”

RELATED: New funds, recruits for B.C. sheriffs

RELATED: Government marijuana stores will compete

The previous government bargained for public sector bonuses based on a share of economic growth that exceeded finance ministry forecasts at the start of each year. The NDP government calls its approach the “sustainable services negotiating mandate” and it did not include that in negotiations with the BCGEU.

“Our members just felt that it wasn’t transparent enough,” Smith said in an interview.

The tentative settlement comes well before the existing contract expires in March 2019, when more than 180 of the province’s union contracts are due to expire. There are more than 422,000 employees in the public service, health and community social services, K-12 and post-secondary education and Crown corporations and agencies, with 326,000 represented by unions.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation contract, a six-year agreement reached in 2014 after a bitter strike, also expires in 2019.

B.C. Liberal opposition leader Andrew Wilkinson said the first contract under an NDP government will be closely watched when the details are released following a ratification vote. He noted that the BCGEU has donated $2.7 million to the NDP since 2005.

“It’s no surprise that the NDP has been able to come to terms with one of its biggest political supporters, and the public deserves to know where their money is going and why,” Wilkinson said.

Smith said bargaining with the NDP government was as intense as ever, with late-night negotiation sessions.

“It was not easy, but certainly with a government that has a mandate of quality public services and accessibility for British Columbians, we had some shared ideals,” she said.

The Liquor Distribution Branch is preparing to play a part in recreational marijuana sales, where it will control wholesale distribution and run some of the retail stores in B.C.

“We do know that there will be a new warehouse, so that will be staffed up,” Smith said. “I have no idea what they’re looking at in terms of employee numbers.”

Just Posted

Lightning sparks small fires west of Summerland

BC Wildfire Crews are on scene of two wildfires that started Aug. 17

Vehicle accident closes highway near Enderby

Highway 97A is expected to reopen at 10 a.m.

Okanagan air quality levels worse than Jodhpur, India

Kelowna - Avoid strenuous exercise outside today

Vipers’ sale rumours heat up

Ferner goes into camp without a contract

More wildfires discovered near Lumby, Cherryville

Canadian Armed Troops in Okanagan, Mabel Creek blaze creeps towards lake

First responders, police march in funeral procession for Fredericton officers

Hundreds of officials marched in the parade, which included massed band, several police motorcycles

Penticton Super League Triathlon suspended due to smoky skies

Okanagan air quality levels are hindering outdoor events

Lightning sparks small fires west of Summerland

BC Wildfire Crews are on scene of two wildfires that started Aug. 17

Canadians react to death of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan at age 80

Nobel Peace Prize-winning former UN leader died early Saturday following a short illness

Apple Triathalon cancelled in Kelowna due to smoke

The event has been cancelled for Saturday

44 drownings so far this year in B.C.

Lifesaving Society urging caution to prevent deaths while on lakes, oceans and in pools

VIDEO: Ground crews keep a close eye on largest B.C. wildfire

Originally estimated to be 79,192 hectares, officials said more accurate mapping shows smaller size

Vancouver Island woman to attempt historic swim across Juan de Fuca Strait today

Ultra-marathon swimmer Susan Simmons to attempt to swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back

Evacuation alert issued due to wildfire near Princeton

The RDOS has issued alerts for properties in the electoral areas

Most Read