Members of one of the largest public-sector unions in the province have voted overwhelmingly in favour of striking as the union and provincial government continue working on ratifying a new contract.
The BC General Employees’ Union represents more than 85,000 members, 64,000 of whom are covered by one of six public sector agreements that expired on March 31.
The strike vote was among 33,000 members and resulted in 94.6 per cent in favour of strike action.
The results were released on Wednesday (June 22), the same day it was announced the union and government would resume negotiations on June 27.
The union said inflation and cost of living protections for wages has become a key issue.
Earlier this year, the government had offered wage increases of 1.5 per cent this year and two per cent in each of 2023 and 2024. The union asked for a five per cent hike or an inflation-based raise (whichever is higher) in 2022 and 2023.
Members of their bargaining unit are employees of direct government, including wildfire fighters, social workers, sheriffs and correctional officers, administrative staff, employees in BC Liquor and Cannabis stores and warehouses and conservation officers.
BCGEU president Stephanie Smith said cost of living adjustments are an integral part of negotiations.
“Our province was in an affordability crisis before the pandemic and before inflation started to skyrocket last year,” Smith said in a statement. “Any wage offer that doesn’t include COLA protection is a wage cut and no worker should have to accept a pay cut.”
The BCGEU is the first of many public-sector unions to bargain with the government in 2022. In total, almost 400,000 employees have agreements that will, or already have, expire this year.
Included in that group is the BC Teachers’ Federation, whose contract with the government expires on June 30.