BCGEU sheriffs have been recruited by police departments, leading to union calls for pay increases. (Black Press files)

B.C. public service union settlement first of many

Three-year deal with BCGEU includes 2% annual wage increases

Members of B.C.’s main public service union are preparing to vote on a three-year agreement, the first of a long series of contract talks facing the new NDP government.

The B.C. Government and Service Employees Union reached a tentative settlement this week for 26,500 public sector employees, including 4,200 employees of the Liquor Distribution Branch and 480 at the B.C. Pension Corp.

BCGEU president Stephanie Smith confirmed social media reports that the agreement includes a two per cent general wage increase in each of the three years, and targeted increases for some classifications that have had problems recruiting and keeping workers. The union has been outspoken about a shortage of sheriffs who work at provincial courthouses, and the chronic difficulty hiring and keeping child protection social workers.

Smith wouldn’t comment on the classifications getting extra money, except to say there were several and the union got agreements on “some, certainly not all.”

RELATED: New funds, recruits for B.C. sheriffs

RELATED: Government marijuana stores will compete

The previous government bargained for public sector bonuses based on a share of economic growth that exceeded finance ministry forecasts at the start of each year. The NDP government calls its approach the “sustainable services negotiating mandate” and it did not include that in negotiations with the BCGEU.

“Our members just felt that it wasn’t transparent enough,” Smith said in an interview.

The tentative settlement comes well before the existing contract expires in March 2019, when more than 180 of the province’s union contracts are due to expire. There are more than 422,000 employees in the public service, health and community social services, K-12 and post-secondary education and Crown corporations and agencies, with 326,000 represented by unions.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation contract, a six-year agreement reached in 2014 after a bitter strike, also expires in 2019.

B.C. Liberal opposition leader Andrew Wilkinson said the first contract under an NDP government will be closely watched when the details are released following a ratification vote. He noted that the BCGEU has donated $2.7 million to the NDP since 2005.

“It’s no surprise that the NDP has been able to come to terms with one of its biggest political supporters, and the public deserves to know where their money is going and why,” Wilkinson said.

Smith said bargaining with the NDP government was as intense as ever, with late-night negotiation sessions.

“It was not easy, but certainly with a government that has a mandate of quality public services and accessibility for British Columbians, we had some shared ideals,” she said.

The Liquor Distribution Branch is preparing to play a part in recreational marijuana sales, where it will control wholesale distribution and run some of the retail stores in B.C.

“We do know that there will be a new warehouse, so that will be staffed up,” Smith said. “I have no idea what they’re looking at in terms of employee numbers.”

Just Posted

Wildfire update: Fires burning in Fraser Canyon, Highway 7 and Skagit Valley

Several fires in the region are under ‘modified response’ meaning no firefighters are attending

Update: Highway 1 reopened after single-vehicle rollover north of Yale

Single-vehicle crash with three occupants happened at Saddle Rock Tunnel at 10:15 a.m.

Highway 7 down to one-lane alternating as crews fight Mt. Hicks wildfire

150-hectare blaze prompted closure of a provincial park

Night patrol on Chilliwack waters leads DFO to seize 48 sockeye and harbour seal from poachers

Charges pending after two poachers arrested for fishing at night

WATCH: Recruitment set to start for the Molson Coors Brewery at Chilliwack

There were about 1,000 jobs during the construction phase and some staff now being sought

Average Canadian family spends 43% of income on taxes: study

Fraser Institute’s consumer report shows taxes accounting for larger chunk of income each year

RCMP to search for body after man drowns in B.C.’s Buntzen Lake

Officers and fire crews responded but the man from the Lower Mainland is believed to have drowned.

Police chiefs call for stricter controls on pill presses to fight opioids

Canada’s police chiefs are urging Ottawa to beef up its fight against the opioid scourge by closely vetting people who import pill presses

Hot, dry conditions forces drought rating to highest level on Vancouver Island

The province says Vancouver Island is under Stage 4 drought conditions

Victoria police say explicit calls continue to target women

Over 50 reports of unwanted, sexually explicit calls have come in

‘It’s like a party in your mouth’

B.C. creator’s Milkshake Burger makes its debut at the PNE

Get involved in the Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count

Environmental organization develops app to help with the nationwide count

Pesticides linked to bee deaths will be phased out in Canada, sources say

Neonicotinoids, or neonics, are a class of pesticides used by farmers and hobby gardeners alike

Most Read