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Union reaches out to province, but says no movement yet

Sep 07 2012

There was a lot of talk about fair wage increases for 27,000 government workers who staged their largest job action in more than 20 years on Wednesday. Now, the province and its largest union could get back to what that f-word word means.

The chief negotiator for the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union called the chief provincial negotiator Thursday, the union confirmed, but there was "nothing to report at this time," said the BCGEU in an email.

Neither union negotiator David Vipond nor union president Darryl Walker were available to reporters.

The two sides have not met since July 3.

"It was the BCGEU that left the table and we would welcome them back," a finance ministry spokesman said in an email Thursday. He said it was "unrealistic to ask for further increases given the uncertain world economic situation."

The province maintains its last offer of 3.5 per cent over two years was "fair and reasonable."

Not according to the union, which thus far says "fair and reasonable" means 3.5 per cent in one year and a cost-of-living raise of about 2.0 per cent for the second year.

Members have lost 5.5 per cent of their real wages through inflation since the wage freeze after April 2010, the union says.

The province's offer works out to about $1,700 over two years for an average salary of $48,000.

The union maintains its position would cost the province $66 million extra per year, which would be covered if the province allowed 175 more of its liquor stores to open Sundays and for longer hours.

The province maintains that opening more than the current 21 Signature liquor stores on Sundays would cut into existing sales and raise only $8.1 million more.

"We will not add to the deficit or ask taxpayers for more money to pay unaffordable wage increases," the ministry spokesman said.

kdedyna@timescolonist.com

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