Government offices behind picket lines

Vernon-Monashee MLA believes both sides can reach a collective agreement

Government workers are walking off the job.

About 27,000 members of three public sector unions will go on strike at sites across B.C. Wednesday to push for a new contract with the government.

“Employees want 3.5 per cent (wage hike) in the first year and then cost of living in the next. The finance ministry has offered 3.5 per cent over two years so there’s not a big spread,” said Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA.

“The BCGEU is being reasonable in their request although it’s a big number for the provincial budget.”

The three groups involved are the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union, the Professional Employees Association and the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union.

“We are looking for a fair and reasonable agreement, but the government is not listening,” said Darryl Walker, BCGEU president.

“We have no choice but to send a clear message Sept. 5. There can be no more falling behind for all government workers.”

The unions say that since 2010, B.C. government workers have experienced a real wage cut of five per cent.

“Our members have spent over two years without a collective agreement doing more work for less pay,” said David Black, COPE president.

Foster isn’t surprised by the job action Wednesday.

“The walk-out is part of the negotiations process and one of the tools labour has,” he said.

Foster is confident an escalation of the dispute can be avoided.

“We won’t be able to give them everything they want but we can come to the table where something can be negotiated. Their services are valued,” he said.