AFTER three days of positive public service negotiations last week, talks between the BC General Employees’ Union (BCGEU) and the B.C. government’s Public Service Agency (PSA) broke down on Monday morning.
The BCGEU said that last week, its public service bargaining committee developed a creative proposal that included cost of living adjustments (COLA) and wage protection from inflation, while working within the fiscal framework of the government’s most recent wage proposal. Instead of matching union moves to reach a deal, the government came back to the table on Monday morning with an unacceptable “take it or leave it” approach and refused to counter the union’s offer.
“To say we are disappointed is an understatement: despite our best efforts to bridge the gap, government has refused to table a proposal that meets our members’ key demand of cost-of-living protection,” said Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President and chair of the Public Service Bargaining Committee. “Our members have told us since the beginning of this round of bargaining that they would not ratify a deal which did not address the increasing cost of living.”
The provincial government’s revised wage proposal, tabled last week, failed to meet the needs and priorities that our members – 33,000 members in the public service bargaining unit – identified, and would result in what amounts to a wage cut.
“We were surprised that the employer was unwilling to come back to the table with a counteroffer,” said Smith. “Our union’s revised wage proposal is within the monetary framework that government has laid out, and yet the employer was not willing to budge, notwithstanding over $16 billion in unallocated reserves in their most recent fiscal plan.”
In the meantime, the BCGEU said it will be planning strategic, targeted job action and finalizing essential services with the assistance of the Labour Relations Board.
The BCGEU is the first of many public sector unions to bargain with the provincial government in 2022. In total, almost 400,000 public sector workers have agreements that will, or already have, expire this year.