The communities of Arrow Lake, Adams Lake and Francois Lake will soon have a more sustainable ferry service. Late in the evening of October 24th, after two long days of bargaining in Kelowna, the BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) reached a tentative agreement with WaterBridge Ferries and Waterbridge Equipment – two of the three employers who operate B.C.'s inland ferry services.
"From day one our members have been focused on getting a collective agreement that addresses recruitment, retention and successorship," says Stephanie Smith, BCGEU president. "This deal does all of that, and that's what it will take to make these ferries sustainable for the future. I'm very impressed with the hard work from both sides in getting this done."
Highlights of the tentative agreement include achieving wage parity with BC Ferries within the three-year term and a successorship training commitment from the employer that would ensure existing members have training opportunities and career paths in the service.
Members working for Waterbridge Ferries and Waterbridge Equipment will be reviewing the tentative agreement in detail over the next week and voting on ratification.
Western Pacific Marine, which employs 80 BCGEU members and operates service on Kootenay Lake, continues to refuse the union's proposals and requests to return to bargaining.
"Waterbridge is locally owned, and I believe that gives them an acute understanding of how important this service is to the people, businesses and communities that rely on it," says Smith. "This agreement demonstrates their commitment to our members and to ferry users. I'm hopeful that Western Pacific Marine will follow Waterbridge's example and work with our members to keep their services sustainable."
The BCGEU is one of the largest and fastest growing unions in B.C. with almost 80,000 members working in virtually every community and economic sector in the province.
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