Finance Minister Kevin Falcon said his government made the BCGEU a fair offer, but that’s not how the union sees it.
BCGEU president Darryl Walker said Tuesday that the union is ready to take job action this summer after asking a mediator to book out of talks.
Expecting employees to go the last three years without a pay raise isn’t fair, he said.
“We don’t see it as being a fair offer,” Walker said. “It doesn’t meet the needs that members have stated to us.”
Union members identified wage increases as a priority at the start of bargaining. On Friday, the government offered an initial two per cent followed by a 1.5 per cent increase in 2013, but refused to make the increase retroactive.
That’s effectively the same as the government’s first offer in January and is below the rate of inflation, the union said.
As a result, job action is imminent, but Walker couldn’t say what or when that step will be taken. The BCGEU hasn’t taken job action since 1988.
“The next step is trying to ascertain how we crystallize the strike vote itself,” Walker said. The vote taken in May, which received 82 per cent support, has a limited shelf life that expires Aug. 13. The union doesn’t want to hold another strike vote among its roughly 25,000 members, so it must take action before then.
“We don’t take this lightly. It’s not the direction we want to go,” Walker said. “But the government mandate is such that we won’t be able to get an agreement with them.”
Falcon said Friday that the government’s latest offer was made under its co-operative gains mandate and was reasonable.
“We are experiencing unpredictable economic circumstances around the world,” he said. “Despite this uncertainty, we have been committed to finding savings that can fund a modest wage increase for employees.”
Members involved in the dispute include government administration staff, corrections and sheriff services, liquor retailing and wholesale operations, social workers, probation officers, child-protection workers, environmental services and some health-care workers.