Labour success...and unrest.
March 31st looms large on the labour scene these days.
With only 15 days left for public sector unions to grab the $3000 bonus for each of their members, discussions are fast and furious at bargaining tables around the province.
Of the 39 bargaining units that needed to strike a deal by the deadline set by Finance Minister Carole Taylor, four have already reached four year contracts.
These include 1,500 COPE workers at BC Hydro who settled for 10.5 percent over four years. 1,600 electrical workers at BC Hydro have also cut their deal.
SFU and its faculty association have reached agreement and the 1,100 members will be voting over the next week to ratify.
Finally, BC Transit office workers have also reached settlement at 2.2% per year.
All four of these groups will receive their portion of the $1 billion bonus set aside in last month’s budget for workers who come to agreement.
So word on the weekend that the BC Government Employees Union – or BCGEU - had walked from the bargaining table probably isn’t sitting so well with its members who were counting on that extra $3000 this year.
Although 80% of those who voted were in favour of job action to turn up the pressure on their negotiations, it isn’t the union leadership who’ll lose out if the two sides can’t come to agreement – it is the members.
Because the BCGEU contract doesn’t expire until April, a threat of a strike doesn’t hold a lot of sway for the deal that needs to be reached now.
Union leader George Heyman says that he’s fighting over wages and concerns about privatization. But reported on radio from the bargaining sessions this weekend was that the two sides were very close on wages.
The BCGEU, like most public sector unions, lives in fear that the government will contract out services. The spectre of losing union dues and potentially losing members means less money to run campaigns against the government during the election.
The BC Liberals were elected to run government better. There have been screw-ups along the way, but their drive to find the most efficient manner in which to deliver public services to BC residents has been on the right track.
Sometimes that means finding a private-sector partner to work with. Guess what? The private sector employs people too. Some of them even belong to unions.
You’d think from the way the BCGEU was talking, after contracting out, public services are suddenly delivered by robots, rather than by fellow contributing members of society.
Workers absolutely have the right to bargain collectively and that’s the reason the union exists. But their members will lose out if they let their leadership play politics with their pay packets.
As seen today in 24 Hours Daily.