‘Our members are serious’: BCGEU issues 72-hour strike notice

'Our members are serious': BCGEU issues 72-hour strike notice
The BCGEU served the provincial government a strike notice on Friday.

The BC General Employees’ Union (BCGEU) has issued a 72-hour strike notice, meaning tens of thousands of employees in various public sector jobs will be in a position to strike come Monday afternoon.

The BCGEU’s bargaining unit representing 33,000 public workers in B.C., including social workers, forest firefighters and correctional officers, issued the notice on Friday.

The union says its most recent collective agreement with B.C.’s Public Service Agency (PSA) expired on April 1, after negotiations for a new collective agreement started on February 8.

When bargaining reached impasse on April 6, union members voted 95 per cent in favour of job action on June 22. But when the parties met again in July, talks quickly broke down, according to the BCGEU.

It says that earlier this week, the PSA invited the union back to the bargaining table and, while exploratory discussions were held, the bargaining committee unanimously decided a return to the table would not be fruitful at this time.

A significant issue the two sides have been trying to come to a consensus on is whether wages should rise at the rate of inflation.

“Our members have been crystal clear since day one that their priority this round of bargaining was cost of living protection for their wages,” said Stephanie Smith, BCGEU president and chair of the union’s public service bargaining committee.

“The bottom line is they’re not asking for anything that MLAs don’t already have. The strike vote in June and issuing strike notice today is a message to government that our members are serious,” added Smith.

The PSA says in a statement that it respects the union’s prerogative to take job action during bargaining, and it remains committed to the collective bargaining process and reaching a fair agreement.

The BCGEU did not release any other details about the job action in its notice.

—With files from The Canadian Press


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