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B.C. reaches tentative deal that gives BCGEU workers modest raise and scraps liquor privatization plan

Sep 29 2012
BCGEU president Darryl Walker on the picket line in Victoria earlier this month. 

BCGEU president Darryl Walker on the picket line in Victoria earlier this month.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam , Times Colonist

The B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union and the provincial government have reached a tentative labour deal that kills plans to privatize the Liquor Distribution Branch.

Union president Darryl Walker said the agreement provides a four per cent wage increase over two years for more than 25,000 public service workers.

 The increase is “slightly more” than was offered prior to the union taking job action, he said.

Workers went on strike four times and refused to do overtime to back their demands.

“We knew there probably wasn’t that much more there, but we got every possible nickel that was there,” Walker said. “Everything that was possible to get, we stayed at the table and worked to get.”

The money will come from savings within existing budgets in keeping with the government’s “co-operative gains” mandate.

Premier Christy Clark said the government agreed to scrap the privatization of the Liquor Distribution Branch in order to reach a deal without adding to the province’s deficit or cutting services.

“Frankly, we wanted to make sure we settled the deal with the BCGEU at net zero, so we weren’t going to taxpayers and asking for more money, there weren’t service cuts and that there wasn’t an addition to the deficit,” she said. “So I think in balancing the two, we had to put a little water in our wine, if you will.”

Walker said blocking the sale of Liquor Distribution Branch warehouses and the privatization process was “huge for us.”

“We think that this is the spine of the system,” he said. “Without this, we would perhaps have lost the whole system. Now we have the spine in place, we can build the system.

“This is the third time in 20-odd years that we’ve managed to stop the privatization and we think it’s the right thing to do. We think it’s got huge upsides now.”

The union said it will continue to seek more Sunday openings for government liquor stores — a demand that was taken off the negotiating table to protect workers facing privatization.

“Now that that’s gone, we feel we can talk to this government, and indeed the next government, about what it means to build revenues,” Walker said.

He said the union didn’t give up anything to get wage increases, but is working with the government to find savings by keeping members healthier to reduce sick time and workers’ compensation claims.

The four per cent wage increase is staggered over two years: one per cent is retroactive to April 1; one per cent is effective Aug. 1 this year; another one per cent is effective April 1; and one per cent in December 2013, just before the start of the next round of bargaining.

The union’s bargaining committee is recommending that members approve the deal. Voting will take place over the next couple of weeks.

— with files from Les Leyne



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