‘Me too clause’ could make for a ‘bumpy ride’ in B.C. union negotiations

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With B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch workers on strike, orders to private liquor stores, bars and restaurants across the province have come to a screeching halt


“We should see stock-outs over the weekend for those popular items,” said Kieran Baldwin, general manager of Legacy Liquor Store in Olympic Village.


“We’ll definitely be running out of stuff,” added Allura Fergie, co-owner of Fets Whisky Kitchen on Commercial Drive.


The LDB workers are part of the approximately 33,000 public sector employees represented by the BC Government Employees Union (BCGEU). The strike action is part of the union’s strategy as it negotiates a new contract with the provincial government.


“Wage increases that allow them to catch up,” said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith when asked what the workers are aiming for.


“Also, just as important, some form of inflation protection for those wages – The same sort of protection wages that they themselves as MLAs enjoy and have enjoyed since 2007.”


The BCGEU already turned down an offer of roughly an 11 per cent increase over three years, plus a $2,500 signing bonus.


“I think the unions are going to draw a line in the sand here around this,” said Christopher McLeod, professor of occupational environmental health at UBC.


“I think we’re going to be in for a little bit of a bumpy ride.”


McLeod says it could be a potentially costly and precedent-setting contract for the NDP government to sign, as other public sector unions such as the BC Nurses’ Union and the BC Teachers’ Federation could follow suit under the “Me too clause,” meaning whatever the BCGEU gets in the contract, they could get as well.


“That actually introduces fiscal uncertainty for the government in terms of how much they can commit to, so it’s a challenging environment,” said McLeod.


Finace Minister Selena Robinson hasn’t been made available for comment regarding negotiations, with the ministry directing CTV News to a statement sent out Aug. 15 from Ravi Kahlon, the province’s Minster of Jobs, Recovery and Innovation.


“Our government’s Shared Recovery Mandate offers the most generous wage increase in at least the last 30 years,” reads the statement. “It provides an extra lift to the lowest-paid workers who are hardest hit during periods of high inflation, and is designed to provide workers with money in their pockets sooner rather than later.”


Meanwhile, Smith hinted at more job action if talks continue to stall.


“The tool in the toolbox that workers have in terms of their leverage is withdrawing their labour,” said Smith.


Smith wouldn’t confirm specific numbers the BCGEU is looking for, or what other job action may occur if the collective bargaining process doesn’t reach a conclusion.


In addition to the BCGEU, nearly 350,000 more public sector workers are also seeking new contracts with the provincial government.   

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