'Our proposals will focus on winnable issues that resolve long standing inequities.' - BCGEU president Darryl Walker.
Vancouver (14 Jan. 2010) - Negotiations have started to reach a new contract between the B.C. government and 29,000 members of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE). The existing contract expires March 31. ♦ Update
Public employees affected by the talks include child protection social workers, staff who protect the environment, corrections officers, conservation officers, public liquor store employees and administrative workers who live and work in communities across the province.
"There's no doubt this is going to be a challenging round of negotiations," says BCGEU president Darryl Walker.
"But we will be working creatively to find solutions that work for our members, government and for British Columbians who depend on the services our members provide."
Walker says priority areas for the union at the bargaining table include employment security, benefit improvements and compensation.
"Our proposals will focus on winnable issues that resolve long standing inequities," says Walker, "like ensuring that veteran fire fighters who put their lives at risk to keep our forests from burning every summer are finally covered by benefits."
He says the union will be seeking a 3% annual pay boost in line with what the provincial government has already negotiated with registered nurses and doctors. "Bargaining only works when there's one set of rules that applies to all involved," he says.
To help pay for contract improvements, the BCGEU will also table proposals that will significantly increase government revenue.
"For example, opening all of our public liquor stores on Sunday will create an additional net revenue of $150 million a year for the government to use to settle contracts and protect important public services," Walker says.
While Walker says his union is prepared to work creatively to reach a negotiated settlement, he cautions that can only happen if there are real improvements for his members. "We won't be settling for nothing," he adds.
Following two days of talks this week, the two sides will resume at the end of January. Additional bargaining dates have been agreed to by both sides through March 31.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 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.