BC Ferries layoffs may leave workers in the lurch

“We expected a workforce adjustment given the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in the spirit of ‘getting through this together,’ we expected more from BC Ferries. These workers and their families deserve better.” — Grame Johnston, Provincial President, BCFMWU

Nanimo (8 April 2020) — BC Ferries has announced temporary layoffs as a result of service reductions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While some workforce adjustment was expected, the sudden layoff of hundreds of BC Ferry & Marine Workers' Union members has blindsided the union, and caused concern these layoffs may happen in violation of clear provisions of their collective agreement. The BCFMWU is an affiliate of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BGEU/NUPGE). 

BC Ferries needs to honour collective agreement

“A sudden layoff without notice and other provisions of severance laid out in their collective agreement would be devastating to these workers and their families,” says Graeme Johnston, Provincial  President, BCFMWU. "We call on BC Ferries to honour the collective agreement while they adjust to service reductions.”

As laid out in the collective agreement, all employees must receive notice of layoff and an option of severance pay. “We expected a workforce adjustment given the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in the spirit of ‘getting through this together,’ we expected more from BC Ferries. These workers and their families deserve better.”

BC Ferry & Marine Workers' Union will defend workers' rights with legal action, if necessary

BCFMWU has committed to take any legal action required to protect the rights of its members and remains open to working cooperatively to facilitate the workforce adjustment in the best manner possible for the employees affected.

“We have reviewed the announcement by BC Ferries of its intention to lay off hundreds of its employees, despite the 75% wage subsidy made available by the Federal Government to prevent such actions. In our opinion, the proposed layoffs would constitute a breach of Article 12 of the Collective Agreement and expose BC Ferries to significant liability for damages payable to its laid off employees. These actions are not justifiable under any applicable legislation," said Johnston.

“We have a high degree of confidence in this opinion," said John Rogers, Q.C., Victory Square Law Office, LLP, in support of the union's position. 

This was reinforcd by Laird Cronk, President  of the BC Federation of Labour, saying that “the BC Federation of Labour stands in solidarity with the Ferry Workers and urges BC Ferries, in the strongest possible terms, to negotiate with the union in good faith and respect the existing Collective Agreement.” 

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE