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Cariboo Regional District Workers Reject Employer’s Unfair Final Offer - BC General Employees' Union (BCGEU)


May 10, 2024

Cariboo Regional District Workers Reject Employer's Unfair Final Offer  

WILLIAMS LAKE, B.C. – Yesterday, local government workers, who have been bargaining with the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) since January, blocked the Regional District's attempts to ram through a deal that would have threatened the workers' financial security and risked exacerbating recruitment and retention issues.

The workers, who are unionized with the B.C. General Employees' Union (BCGEU), cover 80,252 square kilometers in this region, providing services to Quesnel, Williams Lake, 100 Mile House and other surrounding communities. Yesterday, the members voted against the employer's Final Offer, as they stand together in the fight for vital improvements required to better services that locals need. 

"From waste management and library services to utilities, on to wildfire response and flood mitigation, our members do everything they can to keep the region safe and vibrant," says BCGEU Treasurer Paul Finch. "They are truly the caretakers of the North, and in a disaster, we would be defenseless without them. But they can only continue to work in our community if they can actually afford to call the Cariboo Region home. The Regional District's Final Offer was not going to provide the financial security they need to do this." 

As it stands, many CRD departments are understaffed and overworked. The region cannot afford to lose workers, especially as wildfire season approaches. "How can our members in the Emergency Operation Centre keep their communities safe if they don't have proper staffing?" says Finch. "This work is stressful enough – being denied vital resources to do the work doesn't help."

In bargaining, the CRD workers have been fighting for critical language that would help offset financial pressures if the Region's cost-of-living skyrockets again, reducing the risk of high staff turnover, which can destabilize local services. "The Cariboo Region needs community-supporting collective agreements to attract and retain skilled and passionate people," says Finch. 

Talks first hit a wall when the CRD tried strongarming members into accepting unacceptable cuts to disability-benefits. A successful strike vote pushed the employer to stand down from the cuts, but they wouldn't meet members in the middle on compensation, refusing inflation-matching protections, forcing the BCGEU members to serve 72-hour strike notice on May 6. 

"Our members do not take strikes lightly, but if they're forced to picket - if that's what it takes to achieve the improvements they need to properly service the Cariboo - they will," says Finch, adding: "Residents fund the CRD. They expect their taxpayer dollars to go directly towards the services they desperately need. And they expect their neighbours who deliver those services to be treated with respect and fairness." 

Yesterday (May 9), CRD workers started limited job actions with an overtime ban as a first step in actioning their strike vote. In contrast to what the employer has been saying in the public, CRD staff are not picketing any services right now. Despite employees showing up to work, the Regional District forced staff to close libraries to the public.

BCGEU members will continue to try and bargain with the Regional District, but if the District is unwilling to offer a fair deal, members may choose to advance their strike action with picketing in the future. 

For more information, contact:
Celia Shea, BCGEU Communications Officer – 780-720-8122 or [email protected]