Local members of the BCGEU were picketing today as it marked the first day of strike action by workers. Workers were walking around City Hall this morning after serving a 72 hour strike notice on Friday.
Rod Smith is a level one equipment operator and was one of many BCGEU members at City Hall. He said the final offer the union received was rejected because it didn’t recognize the months workers put in past the expiry of the previous agreement.
“This union entered into a negotiation with this employer six months after the expiration of the existing contract which isn’t traditionally the way we like to handle things,” he explained. “In this case it drug on for quite awhile and brought us to the middle of the year. Their final offer included a pay increase that didn’t recognize the first six months of the year that the union membership put in their time in good faith and did the job to the best of their abilities and were quite insulted when they were informed that they weren’t going to have that time valued.”
Smith pointed to matters of staff being overworked in a community that has been growing, and will continue to grow well into the future as another issue that will need to be dealt with.
“In my 30 years with this employer I’ve seen this city double in size already and it’s going to continue to grow exponentially for the next number of years, even decades,” he said. “Our staffing levels haven’t improved since the City decimated them in 1987 when they were bankrupt. They laid off almost half the staff. Every department in the City of Fort St. John is undermanned, understaffed, and overworked. My salary includes 600 plus hours of overtime. In that time we’ve watched the management ranks double and almost triple and they’re still planning on hiring more.”
As for what happens now, the ball is in the City’s court according to Smith.
“I guess that’s entirely up to them,” he stated. They gave us a final offer that the membership didn’t accept so it’s clear that there’s some work that needs to be done. We’ll do what we have to do here. We’re initiating job action that doesn’t include picketing recreation as has been characterized by management’s media reports.”
Smith added if there was a message the union wanted to make the public aware of it would be that they have an expectation to be treated respectfully and fairly, and that workers love that they do.