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BC strikes tentative union deals

The British Columbia government has reached tentative contract agreements with 51,000 unionized public sector workers, giving the province five years of labour peace and workers a benefit-sharing deal, Finance Minister Mike de Jong said Tuesday.

The three deals cover about one-quarter of the government's unionized workforce, including 25,000 B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union members and members of two bargaining associations, who include about 11,000 people who work in social services, and another 15,000 community health employees.

De Jong called the agreements novel because they offer public-sector workers a chance to share in the benefits of stronger economic growth.

He said the deals, reached four months before the current contracts expire, offer five years of labour stability for taxpayers, workers and the government and they include an economic growth-sharing dividend linked to the province's gross domestic product.

The minister said the deals signal to other public sector unions, especially the province's teachers, that the government is looking for long-term contracts and is prepared to share the profits of economic growth.

A government statement says under the economic dividend agreement a government worker earning $50,000 annually can expect an extra $250 if the provincial GDP rises by one percentage point above forecasts.

"It's possible to achieve a settlement on a long-term basis and the province is willing to share the benefits of economic growth with the women and men who work," said de Jong at a news conference in Vancouver.

Premier Christy Clark said in a statement the agreements will help her government keep its commitment to balance the budget.

The BCGEU said in a statement the tentative agreements offer job protection and wage increases in four of the five years.

The Canadian Press

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