The provincial government reached a tentative agreement last week with its largest employee group, as the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union has recommended acceptance of a two-year agreement with a four per cent raise.
Premier Christy Clark announced the settlement Friday at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, after talks broke down in the spring and the BCGEU staged a series of strikes at liquor stores and government offices around the province.
BCGEU president Darryl Walker said the government dropped its proposal to sell the Liquor Distribution Branch warehouse and delivery system, which was “huge” for the union and a step towards privatizing government liquor stores as well.
“We think this is the spine of the system,” Walker said. “Without this we would perhaps have lost the whole system.”
Clark said the settlement meets the government’s “cooperative gains” bargaining mandate, where savings and efficiencies cover the costs of pay increases, but offered few details.
In Kelowna to open a new health sciences building at UBCO on Sept. 20, Clark told the media there was “zero” room for any increase that would be absorbed solely by taxpayers.
Clark said efficiencies in department spending would have to be found to facilitate any wage increase.
Walker said the 26,000-member union agreed to work with the government to reduce sick days and find new efficiencies in operations that include ministry operations, social workers, and provincial prison and court services.
The union dropped its proposal to open more liquor stores on Sundays to increase revenue. Walker said that was to protect members whose distribution jobs were going to be privatized. “Now that (privatization) is gone, we think we can talk to this government and in fact the next government about what it means to build revenues, and if we can find a way to do that by opening stores, then I think it’s win-win,” Walker said.