‘Step in the right direction’: BC Ferries workers get 7.75% to 20.75% raise

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BC Ferries workers know how much extra money they’re earning after an announcement late Thursday about their pay raise.

Ferry workers will get a 7.75 per cent wage increase, retroactive to Oct. 1, 2023 after a dispute resolution panel handed down that binding decision Thursday night.

“We’re happy that we have a decision and we’re happy for our employees that they now have some certainty with where their wages are,” said Dean Dobrinsky, BC Ferries vice president of people and safety.

The company and union reached a bitter impasse when it asked the arbitration panel to make a decision. Dobrinsky says he’s pleased the panel largely accepted its proposal.

The union’s president says the conclusion is moving wages in the right direction.

“There was an acknowledgment that my members have been behind on wages for a long time and while these increases don’t do enough to correct that disparity, it is a step in the correct direction,” said Eric McNeely, president of the BC Ferry & Marine Workers’ Union.

Before this increase, the union says hourly pay ranged from $24 to $61 an hour, depending on the job. The panel’s decision also gives an extra wage increase of four to 13 per cent for certain jobs classifications — which will affect about 40 per cent of the workforce.

“To address market comparables and so there is a varying amount above the general increase of 7.75 percent to try and address those gaps,” said McNeely. “All those classifications that are identified for special increases aren’t at parity with their peers yet, but they’re getting closer.”

Both the union and BC Ferries say the wage increases should help attract workers, and lead to fewer cancelled sailings.

“What we’re hoping is that through this and some of our other investments in employees, including training and support that we’ve given for our folks in our remote locations, that we should see a stabilization of our service. That’s ultimately the goal in the business that we’re in,” said Dobrinksky.

SEE ALSO: Reliability and affordability were top concerns in BC Ferries survey

BC Ferries customers are still on the fence about whether the increased wages will increase BC Ferries reliability.

“I hope so,” said Amber Sarota who was waiting at the Departure Bay terminal on Friday. “I mean it’s been really hard with all the cancellations.”

“I don’t think it’s necessarily going to improve,” said Doug Bulwer, another passenger.

Passengers will have to wait and see if the new rates, which will apply for the next year, will help.

Bargaining unit wages are currently scheduled to be negotiated twice more in the next 18 months, with a second wage reopener in April 2025 and the full collective agreement in October 2025.

BC Ferries says provincial funding will cover much of the pay raises so their cost won’t be immediately felt by ferry customers. BC Ferries issued a news release about the pay increase on Thursday night.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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