After nine weeks of negotiations, talks between your bargaining committee and the employer – B.C.'s Public Service Agency – reached an impasse on Wednesday, April 6th because the employer's revised wage proposal failed to meet your bottom line of cost of living adjustment (COLA) protections.
Throughout the preparation for bargaining last fall, you were clear that COLA was your top priority for this round. Your committee came to the table carrying that message to the employer from day one.
Our wage proposal is for a two-year deal with COLA protection or a 5% general wage increase – whichever is greater – as of April 1, 2022. As of April 1, 2023 we have proposed the 5% increase be paid on an across the board basis. COLA protections including a flat rate per hour will positively impact our lowest wage earners. Our proposal not only meets your needs, it is also affordable for government without raising taxes.
Negotiations originally stalled on March 10th over a significant gap between our wage proposal and the employer's initial proposal. Negotiations resumed this week when the employer tabled a revised proposal. Unfortunately, the revised proposal did not come close enough. The table below compares our wage proposal with the employer's revised wage proposal.
Read more about COLA here.
In addition to the general wage increases, the employer's proposal includes a one-time "shared recovery supplement" of $1000 for each employee who regularly works more than 25 hours per week. Part-time and auxiliary employees who work fewer than 25 hours per week would be eligible for a pro-rated amount. This one-time payment is fully taxable, non-pensionable, and it won't even pay one month's housing cost for most of you.
The bottom line is, in these uncertain times, any wage offer that doesn't include COLA is a wage cut and no worker should be expected to take a wage cut-especially not public service workers who kept our families safe and our province operating through everything the last two years has thrown at us.
The wage offer the employer gave this week is less than half of what is needed to keep pace with the current rate of inflation. Your committee knows that our members will not ratify an agreement that would result in what is essentially a wage cut.
In addition to wages, you told us there were other issues that were important to you including flexible work arrangement language, sick leave, classification issues and benefit improvements. The employer hasn't responded appropriately yet to these issues.
What does this mean?
As we mentioned in previous bulletins, we have been preparing for every eventuality for several weeks. Essential service negotiations with the employer have started and we have begun planning for a strike vote, which cannot take place until essential service negotiations are complete. Given the size and scope of your bargaining unit, we anticipate essential service negotiations will take several weeks and a strike vote would not happen until at least early May. We will keep you informed as these processes move forward. For now, your collective agreement remains in place, and it is business as usual.
In the interim, we have told the employer that we are available to resume negotiations should they have a more realistic offer to make.
Inflation is currently at a 30-year high of 5.7% and is expected to go higher in the coming weeks. How does this impact your wage and purchasing power? Check out this infographic which helps explain the effect of inflation on your day-to-day life.
COLA is a reasonable demand and affordable under the province's recently tabled provincial budget. This means that the government will not have to raise taxes to achieve this. We note that MLAs of all parties and minimum wage earners will have wage increases tied to inflation. All workers deserve this.
Thanks to all the members who have already updated your contact info on the Member Portal. If you haven't had a chance to update your information, it's not too late. Click here to log in to the Member Portal. If you don't have a Member Portal account yet, click here to request an account, and then watch for an email with instructions on how to activate it.
Should we need to take a strike vote it will be very important that our union can reach you. That is why we strongly recommend providing a cell phone number to ensure you don't miss any information. We know you will have many questions, and you will be engaged every step of the way.
Your BCGEU Public Service Bargaining Committee
Stephanie Smith, President
Paul Finch, Treasurer
Judy Phipps, Executive Vice President
Dean Purdy, Vice President - Component 1
Kusam Doal, Vice President - Component 5
Judy Fox-McGuire, Vice President - Component 6
Cynthia Mepham-Egli, Component 6 Acting First Vice-Chairperson
Maria Middlemiss, Vice President - Component 12
Matt Damario, Component 12 First Vice-Chairperson
Robert Davis, Vice President - Component 20
Michael Eso, Secretary and Lead Negotiator
Lisa Lane, Support Staff
Download PDF of notice here
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