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BCGEU boosts job action with overtime ban

Sep 13 2012

As of Monday, quitting time will be quitting time for non-essential provincial government unionized employees. A ban on overtime will come into play as the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union steps up pressure on the province to reach a deal for 26,200 workers without a contract since March 31.

Unlike the one-day provincewide strike on Sept. 5, this job action is not slated for just one day.

“It’s just starting on Monday,” said union president Darryl Walker. He was unable to say what kind of service curtailment the public might notice.

It may well be the first time the union has taken this step — “it’s certainly the first time in the government units,” said union chief negotiator David Vipond. He said some areas of government regularly rely on overtime work.

“I would say that Ministry of Social Development has got endemic short-staffing and they use lots of overtime,” he said. The ministry deals with income assistance, disability assistance and employment programs.

The Ministry of Finance called the overtime ban a “disappointing, but not unexpected” step in the bargaining process.

However, it noted, “To date, the union has been mindful of the health, safety or welfare of the residents of British Columbia” by ensuring essential workers are on the job, the ministry said in a statement to the Times Colonist.

The government’s last offer was a 3.5 per cent increase over two years. It said uncertain global economics made it difficult to consider further increases.

“As this pressure increases on the budget, it will make it harder for government to consider even modest compensation increases,” the ministry said.

The union last proposed a 3.5 per cent raise the first year and a cost-of-living raise of about 2.0 per cent the second. Workers’ wages have been frozen for the past two years, Walker said.

The average pay of a BCGEU member is about $45,500, Walker said. Wage rates range from about $16 hourly for a labourer up to $75,000 annually for the highest paid BCGEU members, such as senior economists.

Based on the union’s estimation of average salary, the government offer would amount to an increase of about $1,600 on the average pay, while the union’s request would work out to about $2,500.

There are about 26,500 workers in the BCGEU government unit, including thousands in Victoria. The union has 62,000 members.

Many government union employees work seven hours a day in a 35-hour workweek. Overtime is paid at time and a half if it is less than two hours in duration and follows a regular shift. Otherwise, it is paid at double time.

The two sides have not met since July 3. The union touched base with the government negotiator earlier this week.

“We believe we’re not that far apart,” Walker said.

kdedyna@timescolonist.com

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