Tentative agreement reached in BCGEU public service talks

'We have achieved significant improvements.' - George Heyman


Victoria (21 March 2006) - A tentative four-year agreement covering 25,000 B.C. government employees provides for significant improvements in the areas of employment security, protection from privatization and contracting out, wage adjustments for workers whose jobs have been undervalued for years, general wage increases keeping pace with inflation and a signing bonus of more than $4,000.

The deal was reached over the weekend and announced by negotiators for the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU/NUPGE).

“This was a tough and complex set of negotiations, but we have achieved significant improvements to the rights, working conditions and wages of the women and men who protect our children at risk, guard inmates, protect our forests and environment, care for the mentally ill, sell liquor responsibly, and ensure the day-to-day administration and public access to public services are running effectively and efficiently,” says George Heyman, BCGEU president.

“Both sides worked hard and used creativity to reach a settlement but credit goes to our members who gave us a strong strike mandate to back our demands at the bargaining table for stronger employment security, protection from privatization and contracting out, and a fair wage increase,” Heyman said.

“This is a tentative agreement that meets the key priorities set out by our members, an agreement that we can be proud of. The union’s bargaining committee is unanimously recommending acceptance to our members.”

Heyman said key to the settlement is protection from involuntary job loss, including strict limits to privatization and contracting out, and protections for workers previously affected by the government’s privatization agenda.

“This was a huge issue for our us. The government’s negotiators came to the table with demands for more privatization, contracting out and additional exclusions that targeted over 6,000 — one in four — BCGEU members in government, including liquor store workers, mental health workers, information technology workers, and administrative workers in every ministry,” Heyman said.

“We told the government’s negotiators very clearly that in addition to fair, ongoing wage increases, any deal had to include protections for workers from privatization and contracting out. When they failed to move on this and other key issues, we stepped away from the table to reinforce how important these were for our members.

“Our strong stand paid off. While we can’t stop a government that is clearly ideologically bent on privatizing and contracting out public services, despite a poor track record of previous initiatives, we can protect the jobs and rights of our members,” Heyman said.

The tentative agreement provides for an average wage increase of 10 percent over four years, additional market and recruitment and retention pay for targeted classifications, and a one-time signing bonus of at least $4,019.40 for full-time employees (pro-rated for part-time employees). “The agreement on wages makes up for two years of wage freezes and keeps pace with inflation. Government workers more than paid the price for the government’s balanced budgets. They’ll now see money in their pockets,” Heyman said.

Other highlights of the tentative agreement include:

  • improvements to health and welfare benefits;
  • improvements to premiums and allowances;
  • additional wage increases for positions where inadequate pay has led to recruitment and retention problems;
  • additional wage increases for workers whose work has been undervalued; and
  • improvements to rights of auxiliary (casual) workers.

The BCGEU will conduct a ratification vote on the tentative agreement over the next three weeks.

NOTE: A webcast of the news conference is available at: www.bcgeu.ca NUPGE

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