The B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union and the provincial government have reached a tentative deal that also kills plans to privatize the Liquor Distribution Branch.
Union president Darryl Walker said the deal means a four per cent wage increase over two years for more than 25,000 public service workers.
The increase is “slightly more” than was offered prior to the union taking job action, he said. Workers went on strike four times and placed a ban on overtime to back their proposals.
“We knew there probably wasn’t that much more there, but we got every possible nickel that was there,” Walker said. “Everything that was possible to get, we stayed at the table and worked to get.”
The money will come from savings within existing budgets in keeping with government’s cooperative gains mandate. Walker said the union will work with government to find efficiencies and reduce employee absences and workers’ compensation claims.
Premier Christy Clark said government agreed to scrap the privatization of the Liquor Distribution Branch in order to reach a deal without adding to its deficit or cutting services.
“Frankly, we wanted to make sure that we settled the deal with the BCGEU at net zero, so we weren’t going to taxpayers and asking for more money, that there weren’t service cuts and that there wasn’t an addition to the deficit,” she said. “So I think in balancing the two, we had to put a little water in our wine, if you will.”
Walker said cancellation of the sale of Liquor Distribution Branch warehouses and the privatization process was “huge for us.”
“We think that this is the spine of the system. Without this we would perhaps have lost the whole system. Now we have the spine in place we can build the system.
“This is the third time in 20-odd years that we’ve managed to stop the privatization and we think it’s the right thing to do. We think it’s got huge upsides now.”
The union will continue to work for more Sunday openings — a demand that was taken off the negotiating table in order to try to protect workers that were facing privatization.
“Now that that’s gone we feel we can talk to this government and indeed the next government about what it means to build revenues.”
Walker said the union didn’t give up anything to get wage increases but is working with the government to find savings by keeping members healthier to reduce sick time and workers’ compensation claims.
The four per cent wage hike is staggered over two years: One per cent retroactive to April 1; one per cent effective Aug. 1 this year; one per cent on April 1 next year; and one percent in Dec. 2013 just prior to the start of the next round of bargaining.
The union’s bargaining committee is recommending that members approve the deal. Voting will take place over the next couple of weeks.