VICTORIA, B.C. – Negotiations between the BC General Employees’ Union (BCGEU) and the provincial government’s Public Service Agency (PSA) have stalled over a significant gap in wage proposals. The current agreement between the parties, which covers more than 32,000 union members, expires on March 31, 2022.
“We have made good progress so far on some very important issues that will substantially improve the working lives of our members,” said Stephanie Smith, BCGEU president and chair of the union’s bargaining committee. “But we came to the table carrying a clear message from our members to their employer—cost of living protection is the price of admission for a deal this round. When we exchanged monetary packages last week there was a gaping chasm between what our members need and what the PSA was offering so we’re stalled.”
As inflation rises and the cost-of-living skyrockets in communities across the province, public service workers are falling further and further behind. And there’s no end in sight—this week’s inflation numbers from Statistics Canada are expected to be higher.
“BC is a beautiful province but it is expensive to live here and it’s getting more expensive every day,” said Smith. “The bottom line is any wage offer that doesn’t include cost of living protection (COLA) is a wage cut and no worker should be expected to take a wage cut—especially not the public service workers who kept our families safe and our province operating over everything the last two years has thrown at us.”
The BCGEU bargaining committee sees the stall as a temporary setback and remains optimistic about reaching a deal at the bargaining table before the current agreement expires.
“Our union has a long-standing and very constructive working relationship with the PSA,” said Smith. “We’ve been bargaining agreements and solving problems together for almost 50 years. I am confident that if the PSA can revise their wage offer, we can get a deal BCGEU members will ratify.”
Before pausing negotiations, the parties made significant progress on a range of issues BCGEU members also identified as important including improved processes to resolve member issues and complaints, stronger language around bullying and sexual harassment, improvements to occupational and heath and safety language. The union’s bargaining committee is ready to return to the negotiating table on short notice as soon as the PSA has a revised wage proposal to bring to the table.