CGEU picketers (L to R) Jennie Davis

One-day strike hits government Wednesday

Pickets went up at Peninsula liquor stores in the Semiahmoo and Ocean Park shopping centres

A one-day strike Wednesday saw 27,000 unionized government workers walk off the job in a bid to apply more pressure in negotiations with the province.

In South Surrey, the first pickets went up at 7 a.m. at the Peninsula Village government liquor store.

Staff explained that while the store doesn’t normally open until 9:30, their usual shift begins at 7.

Pickets went up at the other Peninsula liquor stores in the Semiahmoo and Ocean Park shopping centres at 9 a.m.

Courts, jails and ICBC offices were also among the more than 1,700 affected worksites.

Essential services were maintained.

The Sept. 5 job action was ordered by leaders of the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union (BCGEU), the Professional Employees Association and the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union.

“We do not take this action lightly,” said BCGEU president Darryl Walker. “There will be no more falling behind for government workers.”

The BCGEU is seeking a 3.5 per cent pay hike this year and a cost of living increase in 2013, following the expiry of its last contract on March 31.

The province had offered two per cent in the first year and 1.5 per cent in the second – a package Victoria has since taken off the table.

The union contends its members lost ground against inflation over the past two years due to the previous contract signed in 2010 under a net-zero mandate as B.C. was struggling to recover from recession.

“We took two zeros in 2010 and 2011 that really look at a wage cut of around five per cent when you look at the cost of living,” Walker said.

The government has countered it made a fair and reasonable offer given that B.C. remains under fiscal pressure due to the lacklustre global economy.

Smaller single-day strikes have been staged at more selective public sector targets earlier this summer.

The BCGEU has also proposed fiscal reforms, such as Sunday liquor store openings and the use of sheriffs for traffic enforcement.

– with files from Dan Ferguson

 

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