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

Ash falling in the Okanagan

Reports on social media of ashes on cars around the Okanagan

Highway 3A pot plant pulls application

A controversial cannabis production facility has withdrawn an application

Snowy Mountain fire travelling away from communities

The Snowy Mountain fire near Keremeos remains at 13,359 hectares in size

Man dies in Penticton RCMP custody

An independent investigation is underway after a man died while in Penticton police custody Aug. 16

Plethora of bike parts found at problem property

Penticton bylaw said parts for upwards of 80 bicycles uncovered at 377 Winnipeg Street

Minister optimistic after 2 days of Columbia River Treaty negotiations

Canadian and U.S. officials met in Nelson Wednesday and Thursday to discuss future of the treaty

RCMP appeal for tips, dashcam footage in German tourist shooting west of Calgary

The Durango crashed into the ditch after the shooting near the Goodstoney Rodeo Centre

2 nurses attacked at B.C. psych hospital, union calls for in-unit security

PHSA says that in-unit guards would do more harm than good

Former Shuswap optician won’t be jailed for sexually assaulting minor

Kenneth Pilkington sentenced to 24 months’ probation for offence three decades ago

Kelowna developer warns home buyers to look at more than the price tag

Kelowna developer Jeffrey Anderson wants first-time homeowners to look at more than the price tag.

Red Cross now accepting donations for those impacted by B.C. wildfires

The Canadian Red Cross is asking for help now and in the weeks and months ahead.

B.C. program to educate parents reduces ‘shaken baby syndrome’ by 35%

Period of PURPLE Crying was launched nearly a decade ago

Most Read