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BCGEU targets liquor distribution centres in job action

Retail liquor and cannabis stores will not be part of this phase of job action, says the B.C. General Employees' Union, which represents 33,000 people who work for the provincial government.
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BCGEU office at 4911 Canada Way, Burnaby. Francis Georgian, Vancouver Sun

The union representing 33,000 provincial ­government workers says it will begin targeted job action at four B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch wholesale and distribution centres at 3:30 p.m. today.

The B.C. General Employees’ Union representing 33,000 provincial ­government workers will be in a legal position to strike as of 2:46 p.m.

It released details about the planned job action Monday morning, saying pickets lines were planned for the following locations:

  • Delta Distribution Centre — 7003 72nd St., Delta
  • Kamloops Distribution Centre — 9881 Dallas Dr., Kamloops
  • Richmond Distribution Centre — 3389 No 6 Rd., Richmond
  • Victoria Wholesale Customer Centre — 2291 Government St., Victoria

Members at the wholesale customer centre and the customer care centre (Cannabis division) in Burnaby will be included in the targeted job action but there will not be a picket line at that location.
 
Retail liquor and cannabis stores will not be part of this phase of job action, the BCGEU said.

"Your bargaining committee’s goal has always been to get a deal which provides appropriate cost of living protection for your wages," the union said in a message to members. "That is still our goal, and we are ready to return to the table when your employer demonstrates that they are able to meet your demands." 

Union members have been without a contract since April 1, and while ­bargaining started on Feb. 8, it reached an impasse on April 6. In June, 95 per cent of members who voted expressed support for job action.

The government has said it is ­offering a wage increase of nearly 11 per cent over three years, while the union is pushing for more in the face of an annual inflation rate of 8 per cent.

“Our members have been crystal clear since day one that their priority this round of bargaining was cost of living protection for their wages,” said Stephanie Smith, BCGEU president.

“The bottom line is they’re not asking for anything that MLAs don’t already have. The strike vote in June and ­issuing strike notice [Friday] is a message to ­government that our members are ­serious.”

The B.C. Public Service Agency issued a statement acknowledging concerns about inflation, especially among workers at the lower end of pay scales.

Its mandate “seeks to address the economic uncertainty and rising costs of inflation as best we can” including providing an extra lift to the lowest-paid workers.

Before job action begins, essential service levels are being set to ensure that critical services continue, the statement said.

"Members of B.C.’s public sector are hardworking people who deserve fair collective agreements, and we know that fair agreements will be reached through the collective bargaining process," the statement said. 

"We respect a union’s prerogative to take a strike vote or job action during the course of the bargaining process."

BCGEU members who work directly for the province include those who run government liquor and cannabis stores, provide services to protect children, manage natural resources, care for mentally ill people in institutions, staff provincial correctional facilities, fight forest fires, and provide technical and clerical services. 

Job action means "workers could refuse to work overtime hours, only perform the duties outlined in their job contract and be firm about taking their breaks on time,” Smith said.

She said she's hoping for a better offer from the government before job action begins. “We’re asking for wage protections from inflation with a cost of living adjustment clause in a new collective agreement."

— With files from Vancouver Sun

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