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Talks between BCGEU and government break off

BCGEU president Stephanie Smith
BCGEU president Stephanie Smith

After three days of negotiations last week, talks between the BC General Employees’ Union (BCGEU) and the B.C. government’s Public Service Agency (PSA) have broken down.

Last week, the BCGEU’s public service bargaining committee developed a proposal that included cost of living adjustments (COLA) and wage protection from inflation, while working within the fiscal framework of the government’s most recent wage proposal, according to the union. The government did not counter.

“To say we are disappointed is an understatement: despite our best efforts to bridge the gap, government has refused to table a proposal that meets our members’ key demand of cost-of-living protection,” said Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President and chair of the Public Service Bargaining Committee, in a news release. “Our members have told us since the beginning of this round of bargaining that they would not ratify a deal which did not address the increasing cost of living.”

The provincial government’s revised wage proposal, tabled last week, failed to meet the needs and priorities that our members – 33,000 members in the public service bargaining unit – identified, and would result in what amounts to a wage cut, she said.

“We were surprised that the employer was unwilling to come back to the table with a counter-offer,” said Smith. “Our union’s revised wage proposal is within the monetary framework that government has laid out, and yet the employer was not willing to budge, notwithstanding over $16 billion in unallocated reserves in their most recent fiscal plan.”

In the meantime, the BCGEU will be planning strategic, targeted job action and finalizing essential services with the assistance of the Labour Relations Board.

The BCGEU is the first of many public sector unions to bargain with the provincial government in 2022. In total, almost 400,000 public sector workers have agreements that will, or already have, expire this year.

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