BCGEU president visits Kamloops picket line, offers support to striking workers

BCGEU boss on picket line

The president of the BCGEU was in Kamloops on Tuesday meeting with striking workers on the picket line outside a liquor distribution warehouse.

“We had hoped all along, right from the beginning of bargaining, that what we were looking for in this round of bargaining was wages that adequately addressed the rising cost of living, but also protection for those wages against runaway rates of inflation,” BCGEU President Stephanie Smith told reporters outside the Dallas facility.

“As you know, we had an almost 95 per cent strike vote and we felt that was a strong message. We issued strike notice last Friday and we felt that was a strong message. We’ve now had to take action on that strike vote, and as you can see people are resolved.”

The BCGEU represents 33,000 government workers. Job action is presently taking place at BC Liquor Distribution Branch facilities in Kamloops, Delta, Richmond and Victoria. All of the union’s remaining staff are being told to report to work as usual.

Union members have been without a contract since April 1. Bargaining started in February but reached an impasse in April.

Smith said the energy on the Kamloops picket line is an indication of the resolve among BCGEU members.

“Well, what it tells me is that the 33,000 members of the public service over the last two-and-a-half years — keeping the lights on, keeping the wheels turning, keeping the doors open, keeping the services available for people in our province — has taught them their worth, and they are now looking for a collective agreement that acknowledges their contribution to our province,” she said.

“Not just over the period of the pandemic, but into the future as we economically recover.”

Smith described herself as an “eternal optimist” but admitted increased job action is on the table.

“There’s a saying in the labour movement — ‘One day longer,’” she said.

“Really, that’s all we need. We need to hold out one day longer. We know the strength of our membership. We know the solidarity of the labour movement in this province, currently. We know that there’s national support and, in some cases, international support coming in. We’re going to win this one.”

Smith said no bargaining talks are currently set.

“We had a very informal conversation with the bargaining agent for government on Friday to see whether or not going back to the table would prove fruitful,” she said.

“Again, there was no indication that there would be movement on addressing the kinds of inflation protections we’re looking for. And, to be quite honest, the money just wasn’t there.”

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