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ICBC union votes in favour of strike

Apr 26 2012

Unionized workers at the Insurance Corporation of B.C. have voted in favour of a strike, but the Crown corporation is attempting to block any work disruptions by asking for at least some jobs to be designated essential services.

Bargaining with ICBC has fallen apart, and the two sides have been without a collective agreement since 2010, said Jeff Gillies, vice-president of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union local 378.

The roughly 4,600 unionized workers voted 87 per cent in favour of job action, he said.

Employees are upset at a lack of wage increases dating to 2010, and a contract offer from ICBC that proposed a wage freeze to 2015, said Gillies.

“We think its patently unfair to say to ICBC workers at the table that you need to take zero,” Gillies said. “The company has been extremely successful. They’ve been sharing with their business partners, the government has been taking money out of ICBC and it should be shared with ICBC workers.

“In addition, we think the customers should be receiving a rebate.”

The ICBC workers handle everything from driver’s licence registration to insurance claims and other services.

Roughly 550 ICBC members work on Vancouver Island.

It’s too early to tell what form job action could take, but a full-blown strike is “not completely off the table,” Gillies said. “We’re going to be consulting with members on what the best job action is and we’re going to be leaving drivers out of it.”

ICBC, which knew the strike vote was coming, has applied to the B.C. Labour Relations Board to declare at least some jobs — such as driver licensing and insurance — an essential service, and therefore not subject to a strike or job action.

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon, who is responsible for ICBC, said he supports the application. “There’s no question having to renew your insurance is an essential service,” he said.

ICBC falls under the provincial government’s co-operative gains mandate, in which the government has refused to consider public sector wage hikes without equivalent savings found elsewhere. The union said ICBC’s internal transformation strategy has found enough savings to give workers a wage increase.

ICBC said it expects a decision from the Labour Relations Board within four weeks.

Both sides will sit down as early as next week for mediation to try to determine what is considered an essential service, said LRB spokesman Wayne Mullins. If they can’t agree, the LRB will make the final decision.

rshaw@timescolonist.com

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