The risk of a labour strike disrupting the Francois Lake ferry service is gone after the workers’ union and the employer reached a deal.
The BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) voted overwhelmingly on Nov. 3-4 to ratify collective agreements with WaterBridge Ferries and WaterBridge Equipment, the union said in a news release on Nov. 5. The agreements cover the 80 staff, including auxiliaries who work for the MV Francois Forester vessel and workers with ferries on Adams Lake and Arrow Lake.
“Our members had one goal in this round of bargaining—to get contracts that ensured the long-term sustainability of these ferries by addressing recruitment and retention through wage parity with BC Ferries and a commitment to successorship training,” said Stephanie Smith, BCGEU president. “They achieved their goal and that’s a huge win for our members, for their employers and for everyone who relies on these ferries.”
The dispute initially arose over concerns among ferry workers that training, wages and staff levels were insufficient. The staff also had not had a contract since March 31, the union said.
The agreement follows months of uncertainty amid the labour dispute and Southside residents faced anxieties that a strike by ferry workers could force them to drive more than 150 kilometres around Francois Lake to go to work or go shopping in Burns Lake.
The Labour Relations Board had also ruled that if there was a strike only crossings for educational, medical or emergency purposes would be permitted.
Hopes began to rise in late October when it was announced that the union and WaterBridge had reached a tentative agreement after two days of negotiations in Kelowna.
The new agreements took immediate effect and will expire on March 31, 2022.