Liquor store, ICBC workers strike Wednesday

One-day walkout to protest stalled negotiations means no govt. liquor stores or ICBC offices will be open

More than 27,000 B.C. government workers are walking off the job this Wednesday,, Sept. 5 in response to stalled contract talks with the province.

The strike, led by the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, will also see members of the Professional Employees Association and Canadian Office and Professional Employees walk off the job.

The one-day strike will hit 153 communities and 1785 government worksites across B.C., according to the BCGEU.

Among the government offices to be affected by the strike will be ICBC offices and B.C. government liquor stores.

“We are looking for a fair and reasonable agreement, but the government is not listening,”  said BCGEU President Darryl Walker.  “We have no choice but to send a clear message on Sept. 5: there can be no more falling behind for all government workers.”

Walker claimed B.C. government workers have suffered a real wage cut of five per cent since 2010, adding the union didn’t take the decision to strike lightly.

“Our last strike in direct government was over 20 years ago,”  he said.

The BCGEU is looking for a wage increase of 3.5 per cent in the first year of a new contract, and a cost-of-living increase in the second year. Members have been without a contract since March 31, and haven’t had a pay increase since 2009.

The BCGEU also proposed the provincial government open liquor stores on Sunday, which they believe will generate up to $100-million in annual revenue, and use sheriffs for traffic safety and enforcement, a move they believe would generate about $180-million annually in reduced expenditures and additional revenue.

However, both proposals were rejected by the provincial government.

The province has offered a 3.5-per-cent increase over two years. However, that proposal was withdrawn when strike action began in March.

In a press release issued before his resignation on Wednesday, former finance minister Kevin Falcon it was irresponsible for the unions to be asking for further wage increases given the uncertain world economic situation.

“Government made a fair and reasonable offer in these negotiations…We will not add to the deficit or raise taxes to pay unaffordable wage increases,”  he said.  “The global economic situation isn’t getting any better and continues to put pressure on the budget. As this pressure increases on the budget it will make it harder for government to consider even modest compensation increases.”

The province’s offer would see worker pay fall further behind inflation,  according to Scott McCannell, executive- director of PEA.

“Without some protections to stop a clear trend of downsizing licensed professionals in the public service, the public interest will not be served,” he said.

“Our members will be taking job action for the first time in their 38-year history to send a message to the government that this issue needs to be addressed and that we need a fair settlement.”