The North Star


BCGEU strikes for wage protections against inflation

“We are realizing our power as workers”

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Since the afternoon of August 15, 2022, 33,000 public service workers represented by BC General Employees' Union have been on strike. Picket lines are up at three liquor distribution centres in Delta, Richmond, and Kamloops and 2 wholesale customer care centres in Victoria and Burnaby, including Burnaby's cannabis division. North Star spoke with Stephanie Smith, President of BCGEU about this job action and the central role of workers in the economy.

"The 94.6% strike vote was the largest strike vote in BCGEU's history. Our members told us loud and clear want they want: not just wage increases, they want wage protection against inflation. The salaries of MLAs are tied to inflation -- our workers are asking for the same protection that government reps get."

BCGEU's initial proposal to the Public Service Agency was a 5% wage increase or the cost of inflation, whichever is higher for 2022 and 2023. Two countering proposals from the Province, via the PSA, were rejected by union membership for failing to ensure meaningful protection against inflation.

North Star asked Smith what she would like workers across BC and Canada to know about their power as workers. "I would say to working people: now is the time. So much of what workers have gained was not given to us by the generosity of industry. The greatest power that we have is withdrawing our labour."

"It's workers who create profit. Elon Musk wouldn't be Elon Musk without workers. Children aren't educated in schools by the head of the school board, and ferries aren't run by the CEO of BC Ferries. It's workers who make the entire economy run."

"When workers get wage increases, they're not hiding their wages in offshore tax havens. They're putting the money back into the local economy. The trickle-down theory of economics has been debunked. We need to say collectively: stop treating big business as the engine of economy.”

In addition to 33,000 direct government employees including liquor store workers, social workers, correctional officers, and wildfire fighters, BCGEU includes another 50,000 members spanning public and private sectors.

In total, collective agreements for 400,000 workers across BC expire in 2022. BCGEU is the first of the public sector unions to enter bargaining with the Province, and a win for BCGEU can help hundreds of thousands of workers across BC.

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