‘We have a right to strike’: Morning delays slow traffic in GVA as PSAC general strike begins

'We have a right to strike': Morning delays slow traffic in GVA as PSAC general strike begins
Protesters march down Admirals Road in Esquimalt as the Public Service Alliance of Canada initiates their general strike Wednesday, April 19, 2023.

Morning commuters heading into Esquimalt were met with delays as members from one of Canada’s biggest unions shored up their picket lines Wednesday morning.

As a result, several BC Transit bus routes headed into Esquimalt’s dockyard had to be rerouted.

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“We are here slowing down access to the employer site, and that is it,” said Kuldeep Deol, president of Victoria’s Local 20001.

“We are here to support our bargaining teams, and this is what it looks like,” Deol said. “We have a right to strike, and that includes being on public land — our goal here is to interrupt and disrupt the employer’s business.”

Deol said the strike would go on as long as it had to.

Picketers were seen across Vancouver Island from the West Shore and past Nanaimo as part of the national strike. Many covered sidewalks and roadways outside federal buildings and bases, causing traffic jams.

At one point, tensions flared as a motorcyclist attempted to pass the picket line near the Serious Coffee on Island Highway but was stopped by picketers.

“You want the RCMP to show up? You want to go home in cuffs tonight,” someone yells at the man on the bike.

Video contains graphic language.

“No injuries were caused. Both the motorcyclist and the picketer confirmed there was no intention to cause harm in this incident. No charges are expected,” said Const. Nancy Saggar with the West Shore RCMP.

As a part of the demonstration, cars are only being allowed to pass the picket once every few minutes. Daryl Dagneault, who was hit by the motorcycle, says it won’t stop him from standing on the picket line.

“We’re just trying to get what’s fair for us, and we hope that our people in Ottawa can come to an agreement very soon,” said Dagneault.

After breaking an agreement, two commercial truck drivers were held up past the picket line.

Gerald Lacquement tells CHEK News that the drivers were attempting to deliver a load to a military base down Wilfret Road. Lacquement told the drivers of the trike action and were ordered to turn around further down the road when it was safe to do so. The drivers, however, say that they didn’t agree to it and eventually had their shipments unloaded.

“When we came back, they’re mad cause we can’t tell them who unloaded us. I said, ‘All I know is that there was a crane on a barge.’ So they’re basically holding us up to make a point,” said Chuck Meanly, one of the commercial truck drivers.

Lacquement says they’re checking to ensure no unionized workers are illegally crossing the picket line.

“We’re also verifying that our jobs aren’t being contracted out and having outside contractors come and take the work while we’re on a legal strike,” said the picketer.

After over an hour, the drivers were let go, and a handshake was exchanged between Meanly and Lacquement.

Today marks the first day of the general strike. According to figures from PSAC’s website, more than 155,000 workers from the Treasury Board and the Canada Revenue Agency will begin to strike action across the country.

READ MORE: Federal workers to strike Wednesday if union, government don’t reach deal by Tuesday

It isn’t clear how many residents from the Island will be protesting, but traffic was slow outside of the Esquimalt Graving Dock as strikers with PSAC placards marched down Admirals Road.

According to their website, several picket lines are happening in and around Greater Victoria. One picket line was set to start at 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday at the Canadian Pension Plan and Old Age Security processing centre located at 1230 Government St. in Victoria.

Another picket line was scheduled to start at 6 a.m. at the Tax Service Office at 1415 Vancouver St. in Victoria. Organizers say actions will happen Monday to Friday, between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m., with picketers operating on four-hour shifts.

Job security, remote work, systemic racism, and a better work-life balance are all key issues that will be negotiated by the union’s bargaining team with its government employer.

Further delays are to be anticipated, and commuters in the area should check out this map from PSAC that outlines all of the current picket lines to avoid delays.

“For nearly two years, the government has dragged their feet and refused to address our key priorities — not the least of which is fair wages that protect workers from skyrocketing inflation. Instead, they tabled serious concessions that impact our rights by weakening job security and access to leave to care for our families,” read a statement from the union’s FAQ page.

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