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October 07, 2019

Ferry workers of Francois Lake, Arrow Lake and Adams Lake invited back to neg...

On Tuesday, October 8, members of the BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) working on the Francois Lake, Arrow Lake and Adams Lake ferries will resume bargaining with the ferries' operators-WaterBridge Ferries and Waterbridge Equipment.

The entity that owns both WaterBridge Ferries and Waterbridge Equipment has invited the union back to the bargaining table to present a proposal on behalf of both companies that it says will address the union's concerns. The negotiations will take place in Kelowna.

"I think this is a good sign that these employers have heard our members' concerns," says Stephanie Smith, BCGEU president. "I'm hoping the new proposal puts the sustainability of the ferry service and the needs of our members and ferry-dependent communities ahead of profits. That would set a new bar for other operators of inland ferry routes."

BCGEU inland ferry workers on routes operated by WaterBridge Ferries, Waterbridge Equipment and Western Pacific Marine have been without a contract since March 2019. Negotiations broke down on June 5 when all three employers rejected the union's proposal for industry standard compensation and investment in recruitment and succession planning.

"Our members' objective hasn't changed throughout this process. They want a collective agreement that ensures the long term sustainability of the ferry service through investments in the workforce," says Smith. "They have never wavered from that, and their solidarity is strong."

The invitation to resume negotiations with Waterbridge Equipment and WaterBridge Ferries comes just as the labour board is expected to issue a ruling to set essential service levels for the Francois Lake, Adams Lake and Arrow Lake ferries in the event of job action. Essential service hearings began in September and ended late Wednesday, October 2.

The BCGEU has not received an invitation to resume bargaining from Western Pacific Marine (WPM), which operates the ferries on Kootenay Lake. As with Waterbridge, the union seeks to establish a collective agreement through bargaining and not arbitration or mediation. 

All three employers maintain service contracts with the Ministry of Transportation. The inland ferry services were initially contracted out under the previous BC Liberal government. As operating costs have increased, the employers have failed to retain workers with industry standard compensation and adhere to guidelines around successorship and training that would ensure safety requirements are met and local knowledge of the lakes are passed down.

The BCGEU is one of the largest and fastest growing unions in B.C. with more than 79,000 members working in almost every community and economic sector in the province.



October 07, 2019

BCGEU announces financial support for UNITE HERE Local 40 members’ historic s...


VANCOUVER-In September UNITE HERE Local 40 members initiated their first strike at downtown Vancouver hotels in 20 years as part of their ongoing fight with their employers-the Hyatt, the Westin Bayshore, the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, and the Pinnacle-for collective agreements that would provide safety, stability and fair compensation.

Since the beginning of the strike UNITE HERE Local 40's picket lines have attracted support from the general public, attention from the media and complaints from hotel management. But their fight to transform the way the hotel industry treats its workers continues.

On Tuesday, October 8, BCGEU president Stephanie Smith-along with other members of the BCGEU-will join the picket line at the Westin Bayshore to make an announcement that demonstrates how one of BC's largest and fastest growing unions stands in solidarity with UNITE HERE Local 40 members in their historic strike against the real estate developers and corporate giants who control some of the most profitable hotels in Metro Vancouver.


Date: Tuesday, October 8, 2019
Time: 9:00 am
Location: Westin Bayshore, 1601 Bayshore Drive, Vancouver




Danielle Marchand, BCGEU
Cell: 778-968-4509


Sharan Pawa, UNITE HERE Local 40
Cell: 604-725-0053





October 03, 2019

Ferry workers support Kootenay Lake community rally to save inland ferry serv...

October 3, 2019

BCGEU members working on the Kootenay Lake ferry will support a community rally to raise awareness for the unsustainability of the inland ferry service.

The "Unity Sailing & Rally" will take place on Friday, October 4 at 3 p.m. at the Kootenay Bay ferry landing. The organizers' goal, according to a media release posted on Facebook, is to "take a stand for a safe, reliable, sustainable ferry service over the long-term" by gathering ferry users to cross the lake together. Ferry workers will accommodate the rally by providing additional sailings as needed to ensure all rally participants are able to return home.

"I can't overstate how much our members appreciate this show of solidarity from the community," says Stephanie Smith, president of the BC Government and Service Employees' Union, the union representing the ferry workers. "Our goal is the same as it has always been-to get a fair collective agreement with the employer that addresses the long term sustainability of the ferry service. It's really gratifying to have the community supporting us. Together we can bring the employer back to the bargaining table."

Ferry workers implemented a restriction on overtime on September 16th to highlight the chronic staffing issues putting the service in crisis. Since then up to 70 per cent of regular sailings per day have been unable to run, negatively impacting ferry users. Community members have spoken out about the impacts by submitting letters to Western Pacific Marine through the BCGEU's website,, as well as by organizing, the grassroots group organizing Friday's rally.

"The employer has spent years making profit their priority, refusing to invest in their workforce, and ultimately creating the current crisis where there is a lack of local, qualified staff to operate the Kootenay Lake ferry," says Smith. "That means the ferry is heavily reliant on extreme amounts of overtime and is at high risk of regular cancellations. Our members have had enough. And we're hearing the same from the community."

"Our members live in ferry dependent communities so they understand how their job action is affecting the daily lives of their friends, families and neighbours," says Smith. "This rally shows that the community understands why our job action is necessary so we want to say thank you by making sure all the participants can get home."

Ferry workers have been without a contract since March 2019. Negotiations ceased on June 5th when the employer, Western Pacific Marine, would not consider the union's proposal for industry standard compensation. Despite the restriction on overtime, ferry crews are committed to delivering the three essential service crossings on weekdays as ordered by the Labour Relations Board.

The BCGEU is one of the largest unions in B.C. with over 79,000 members in almost every community and economic sector in the province.




October 01, 2019

Component 1 members grieve the loss of longtime friend, fellow officer and un...


It is with deep sadness that I inform you of the sudden loss of one of our members and good friends, CJ Conroy, to cancer this week.

CJ was a long-time workplace union activist. He served the membership at the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre (VIRCC) as a shop steward for 20 years and as the first vice-chairperson of Local 101 for 15 years. 

CJ was dedicated to supporting, representing and advocating on behalf of his fellow members in Corrections, as well as all members of the BCGEU, in the fight for fairness and healthy, safe workplaces. Through his work on political campaigns, he helped improve working conditions and wages, and make changes in his community and society.

On behalf of all our members in Component 1, we send our sincerest, heartfelt condolences to CJ's wife and daughter and to all his family, friends and fellow officers at VIRCC. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.

We will miss CJ's gentle nature, good humour and the compassion he had for others.

A service for CJ will be held on: 

Thursday October 3, 2019
Location:    St. Anne's Church in Duncan at 1 pm followed by a reception at the Craig Street Brew Pub

A GoFundMe page has been set up by the union today to raise money for CJ's wife and young daughter.

Click here for the GoFundMe page

In solidarity and condolences,

Dean Purdy
Component 1 Vice-President & Local 101 Chair


September 24, 2019

Update on Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Colum...

This morning, the Cullen Commission announced its ruling on applications for Participant Standing. I'm very pleased to let you know that, out of 20 applicants, your union is one of 16 granted standing. This means that our members can continue to support the critical work of the Commission as it fulfills its mandate to look at the full scope of money laundering in B.C.

While the BCGEU has supported the current provincial government's efforts to investigate various facets of money laundering, we have always insisted that only a broadly-mandated, properly resourced public inquiry could really get to the bottom of the issue. 

Our submission for standing was centered on ensuring that our members in financial services, direct government and the casino sector-those whose working lives have been directly impacted by money laundering-have a forum to convey their firsthand experiences to the Commission.

The BCGEU has been granted standing to submit testimony on a broad range of topics covered by the Commission's mandate, including gaming and horse racing, real estate, financial institutions and money services, the corporate sector, luxury goods, and professional services. There are no timelines set at this point but we don't expect to be called to submit until early in 2020. In the meantime, your union will start working to ensure our members' lived experience on the frontlines of the money laundering crisis is front and center in the Commission's work.

We would not be here without the many BCGEU members who were among the first to raise the alarm on money laundering in the province, and who ensured our union was among the first voices call for a public inquiry. I want to thank you for your perseverance and solidarity on these important issues and I want to assure you that your voice will continue to be central to our work as we move forward.

You can read the news from the Cullen Commission here. If you have questions about the Commission or your union's participation please email

In solidarity, 

Stephanie Smith


September 19, 2019

President’s message – Global Climate Strike - BCGEU

Like many of you I'm inspired by the passion and perseverance of Greta Thunberg and student activists across the world who have worked so hard and so fast to put the climate crisis at the forefront of the public agenda and hold politicians accountable for their lack of action to prevent or mitigate it. 

I want you to know your union recognizes the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for decisive action to save our planet. You have told us through numerous convention resolutions and our recent survey on the issues that matter to you during this federal election, that the environment, global climate change and the sustainability of our planet are top priority. 

That's why I'm not surprised at the number of questions I've received about your union's support for our participation in Global Climate Strike events. As you probably know, from September 20-27 millions of people of all ages across the globe will walk out of classrooms, workplaces and homes to join Greta Thunberg and other young activists in protest events to support climate justice. 

I want to be clear that the BCGEU supports the push for climate justice and stands in solidarity with the young activists who are driving this movement. But I also want to be clear about two particular ways that Global Climate Strike events may impact members:

  • Members who want to participate in protest events. Although the term "strike" is part of the movement's public relations, it's vital that union members understand these protest events are not considered legal strikes under the BC Labour Code; and, therefore, there is no legal mechanism to protect members who choose to participate during their regular work hours. If you intend to participate in a protest event during regular work hours, please advise your union.
  • Members whose worksite is picketed as part of protest events. Members who encounter a picket line at their worksite are expected to exercise their collective agreement and Charter rights to respect that picket line. The only exception is picket lines that have been deemed illegal by the Labour Board and are subject to an injunction. Members who encounter picket lines at their worksite should immediately contact their steward or area office for accurate information about how to proceed.

I want to thank all of you who have contacted me, Paul or any other BCGEU member to express your support for the student-led protests and seek advice about participation. It's critical that members are fully informed when deciding how to act and react during these protests and your union is here to help!

In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith



September 01, 2019

2019 BCGEU scholarship winners announced - BCGEU

Congratulations to the 2019 BCGEU Scholarship Winners. The BCGEU is pleased to support our 2019 scholarship recipients in their continuing education.

(Winners will receive a letter in the mail with instructions on how to claim their scholarship).

2019 Scholarship Winners List

This year, applicants were asked to write an essay on one of three topics:

  1. How can unions lead the way on climate change
  2. How can unions lead the way on reconciliation with Indigenous people and communities?
  3. How can unions lead the way on affordable housing?

You can read some of the top winning essays below:


August 30, 2019

Kootenays inland ferry workers to kick off Labour Day weekend strike - BCGEU

WHAT: BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) inland ferry workers employed by Western Pacific Marine will kick off a three-day strike on Saturday August 31st. The move comes after several months of unsuccessful negotiations for a new collective agreement that will address long-standing issues with substandard wages, benefits and training that have created a staffing crisis for the ferry service.

The workers will be joined by BCGEU president Stephanie Smith and treasurer Paul Finch along with fellow BCGEU members and other members of the community.

The three-day strike will see the Kootenay Lake ferry shut down for routine travel over the long weekend but it will remain available for emergencies and disaster response. Full service will resume Tuesday September 3rd pending further announcements. 

WHEN: Saturday, August 31st, 2019, 2:30pm

WHERE: Balfour Terminal of the Kootenay Lake Ferry – Balfour, B.C.

View our media release: Kootenays inland ferry workers serve 72-hour strike notice

For more information visit:


August 30, 2019

Paid leave for people who experience domestic violence – B.C. should become a...

Earlier this month, the BCGEU wrote to Minister of Labour Harry Bains calling on the B.C. government to amend the Employment Standards Act in order to support those who experience domestic violence.

Today we are pleased to learn that government has launched consultations on the matter, and we reiterate our call for B.C. to adopt New Zealand's standard which allows all workers affected 10 days of paid leave and the right to request flexible working arrangements.

Read our letter to Minister Bains below

The Honourable Harry Bains
Minister of Labour
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC V8V 1X4

Dear Minister,

Re           Paid leave for survivors of domestic violence

The BCGEU represents more than 79,000 workers in various sectors and occupations in communities throughout British Columbia. Our incredibly diverse membership
includes direct government employees, workers in the community social services sector that support people who experience domestic violence at workplaces including
women’s shelters, emergency housing, counselling centres, etc.

Domestic violence affects too many British Columbians. Statistics Canada reports that domestic violence – offences that take place between spouses, common-law partners,
or people who are in intimate relationships – accounts for 30 per cent of all police-related violent crime in Canada, with women being the victim eight times out of 10.

The Canadian Labour Congress, in partnership with Western University, recently conducted a national research project on the effects of domestic violence on Canadian
workers and their workplaces. They found that one in three workers have been impacted by domestic violence, with higher reporting numbers for women, gender diverse
individuals, Indigenous peoples and people reporting a sexual orientation other than heterosexual.

The study also found that workers’ ability to return to their workplace and perform their duties while feeling safe was also compromised as harassing phone calls and
stalking may continue when a worker returns to the workplace. [1]

This important research illustrates that domestic violence, including harassment and abuse, is not only a personal issue but rather has broader implications for our workplaces and our communities. With this in mind, it is essential that we find policy tools to eliminate complications for those fleeing violent relationships.

We encourage your government to amend British Columbia’s Employment Standards Act, to include paid leave for people who experience domestic violence and the right to request flexible working arrangements without jeopardizing their employment. 

Legislating paid leave for people who experience domestic violence will provide economic security and stability in a vulnerable time in a person’s life when they likely cannot afford to be missing work. Paid domestic violence leave will mean that people will have the time needed to deal with the effects of violence, seek help and take steps to keep themselves and their children safe, including leaving a violent situation.

Momentum for paid leave for survivors of domestic violence is growing across other jurisdictions in Canada as other provinces and the federal government have introduced various forms of paid domestic violence leave. Manitoba was the first province in Canada to introduce paid domestic violence leave in 2016, with other provinces following suit shortly thereafter.

We encourage British Columbia to become a leader on this important issue and amend the Employment Standards Act to include provisions for paid domestic violence leave that are in line with those established in New Zealand which allows all workers affected 10 days of paid leave and the right to request flexible working arrangements.

If you or your staff have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. We welcome an opportunity to work collaboratively with your government on this important issue.


Stephanie Smith                              
President, BCGEU     

[1] Wathen, C. N., MacGregor, J. C. D., MacQuarrie, B. J. with the Canadian Labour Congress. (2014). Can Work be Safe, When Home Isn’t? Initial Findings of a Pan-Canadian Survey on Domestic Violence and the Workplace. London, ON: Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women and Children.

Download PDF copy of the letter here