'The so-called golden decade must include working people.' - BCGEU president George Heyman
Victoria (23 Jan. 2006) - George Heyman delivered a strong, clear message to negotiators for the B.C. government of Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell during the first days of bargaining for a new contract with public sector workers in the province. Talks opened last week and resume again this week.
“We need to see a serious response to union proposals on employment security within two weeks or this will be a very difficult round of bargaining,” says the president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE).
“The provincial government has talked about a desire to have cooperative labour relations, but the package tabled by government negotiators proposes to strip a number of long-standing workplace rights and conditions from our members.
“The government package also revisits areas we thought we settled last time, in very difficult negotiations for a contract extension where our members accepted two zeros instead of wage increases,” Heyman says.
The BCGEU’s master bargaining committee exchanged proposals with representatives of the B.C. Public Service Agency, the government’s bargaining agent, in Victoria on Jan. 17 and 18. Master bargaining is set to resume Jan. 24 in Vancouver with two- and three-day meetings scheduled every week until the end of March.
The master bargaining team points out that the nearly 27, 000 women and men who provide important public services every day have been frustrated by four long years of job and service cuts, contracting out and wage freezes. They’re tired of seeing jobs and services contracted out, and they’re tired of privatization.
“If, as B.C. Finance Minister Carole Taylor has said, the government wants to move from confrontation to conversation, they need to make this shift at the bargaining table by respectful proposals that address our members’ key concerns,” says Heyman.
“While we were able to make progress on a number of smaller issues this week, what we saw was a disconnect between the finance minister and the government’s stated goal of improving public sector labour relations and the substantive proposals of their negotiators,” Heyman said, adding, “The government has announced they want agreements by March 31 with public sector unions, but the proposals they have tabled lead away from a settlement.
The government has a surplus of more than $1 billion and it also recently announced yet another corporate tax break, Heyman notes.
“BCGEU members say the so-called golden decade must include working people, and it’s time workers who provide vital public services get their fair share.” NUPGE