There were plenty of children playing and friends catching up after summer holidays during Monday's annual Labour Day picnic at Riverside Park.
But ever present during the speeches and music at the Rotary Bandshell was the frustration among unions in the midst of battles over contracts and working conditions.
Hosted by Kamloops and District Labour Council, several information kiosks dotted the grounds, including the B.C. Government Employees' Union tent where representatives were collecting petitions to stop the privatization of liquor distribution.
Local BCGEU employees are holding a one-day walkout Wednesday along with 27,000 others in 153 communities across the province to protest stalled negotiations to renew a contract that expired March 31.
They will picket outside liquor stores and various government ministry workplaces such as Service B.C. Essential services won't be disrupted.
The workers are demanding 3.5 per cent in the first year, followed by a cost-of-living increase. Government had offered 3.5 per cent over two years for employees coming off several years of no raise.
"It was a very, very tough decision by the provincial executive. We haven't had a strike like this in 23 years," said BCGEU Local 505 chair Karl Wolfe while at the Labour Day picnic. "At the same time, we're looking for a fair wage increase."
B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond, who took over responsibility for public-sector bargaining after Finance Minister Kevin Falcon's departure last Wednesday, said the job action is a normal part of the bargaining process and she anticipates there will be more across the public sector this fall.
Bond says it's irresponsible for the union to ask for further wage increases given the uncertain world economic situation.
CUPE workers were also represented at the Riverside Park event on Monday, reminding visitors that Thompson Rivers University staff Local 4879 are in the midst of taking a strike vote and that Kamloops-Thompson school support staff Local 3500 were still without a contract after more than two years.
Despite the strife, Local 3500 president John Hall, who helped organize the picnic as the secretary treasurer of the Kamloops and District Labour Council, emphasized that the event was meant to be an easygoing affair for the whole family.
"We're here to celebrate all working people, whether organized or unorganized," he said.
Wolfe shared the sense of camaraderie, saying the celebrations were about more than contract disputes.
"We're celebrating labour across Canada. For the labour movement, you can look no further than Tommy Douglas," said Wolfe. "Every time I think of Labour Day, I think of him."
Brent Johnson, Kamloops and District Labour Council acting president, echoed that notion, saying it's very important to acknowledge workers.
"We have a lot of people in the public sector here and we have a lot of private sector employees," he said. "There's not much difference between the non-union workers and the union workers. Trying to make sure people are getting treated right in the workplace, that's the goal of Kamloops District Labour."