Most Francois Lake ferry staff vote to strike

The union representing workers with the MV Francois Forester ferry have voted overwhelmingly to strike amid an impasse in negotiations with the employer WaterBridge.

The vote among workers of the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) came out to 78 per cent in favour of striking, as Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President told Lakes District News on Aug. 22.

There are 80 staff, including auxiliaries with the BCGEU who work for the ferry service.

Negotiations with WaterBridge have been ongoing since the workers’ contracts expired at the end of March.

But the talks reached an impasse over several issues, Smith said.

“Our goal is to get a collective agreement. Currently the proposals are pretty far apart. Since the ferries were contracted out by the previous Liberal government there has been a lack of investment in the labour force. These are specialized positions that require training. There hasn’t been investment in training for the current staff to allow for career ladders to other positions. There’s a lack of competitive wages. It’s hard to draw the necessary staff. The staffing levels of these inland ferries are reaching a crisis point,” she explained.

Though workers’ support for a strike is high, Smith said both the union and WaterBridge are speaking with the Labour Relations Board (LRB) about the essential services levels of the ferry.

Under the B.C. Labour Relations Code, “employers and unions [must] maintain certain essential services to the public when they take job action in a labour dispute. Essential services are those related to the health, safety or the welfare of British Columbia residents,” according to the LRB.

“A strike is a tool in a toolbox to achieve a collective agreement but it’s a tool of last resort. We’ve already committed that in any community where the ferry is the only means of entering or exiting the community, we’ll still provide service,” Smith said. “The levels will be determined by Aug. 23. We’ll respect those levels should job action take place. If there’s job action we’ll have crews on standby should there be an emergency requiring transportation for community members.”

In case there is a strike, it can only happen when ferry trips aren’t necessary under the essential services ruling, said WaterBridge Steel president John Harding.

“It might impact some trips. We’re asking for full service to be maintained. In the meantime full service will be maintained until the ruling from the labour board comes down. So there won’t be any strike action before then,” Harding said.

“We’re hopeful we’ll get a good ruling from the labour board that will enable full service to continue. We’re really hopeful we can negotiate an end to the impasse and sign a contract.”

WaterBridge Equipment, the sister company of WaterBridge Steel operates the MV Francois Forester ferry, which transports hundreds of people and their vehicles across Francois Lake daily.

Blair McBride
Multimedia reporter
Send Blair an email
Like Lakes District News on Facebook

Just Posted

No parole for 12 years for Burns Lake man convicted of second degree murder

Judge said he did not believe Albert Giesbrecht’s claim his gun discharged accidentally

No parole for Giesbrecht until 2031

Justice David Crossin said he did not believe Giesbrecht’s claim his firearm discharged accidentally

Lakes District Community choir performs

The Lakes District Community Choir presented its annual Christmas Concert on Dec.… Continue reading

Happy 100th Birthday Helen

Helen Hiebert celebrated her 100th birthday. On Dec. 6 there was an… Continue reading

Practice makes perfect

Girls hockey players hold a practice in the Tom Forsyth Arena in… Continue reading

VIDEO: Octopus, bald eagle battle after bird ‘bites off more than it can chew’ in B.C. waters

B.C. crew films fight between the two feisty animals in Quatsino off north Vancouver Island

Process to identify those killed in Gabriola plane crash could take days

Canadian flight museum suggests Alex Bahlsen of Mill Bay died in Tuesday’s crash

‘Honest mistake:’ RCMP says B.C. cannabis shop can keep image of infamous Mountie

Sam Steele wearing military, not RCMP uniform in image depicted in Jimmy’s Cannabis window

B.C. conservation officers put down fawn blinded by BB gun on Vancouver Island

Young deer found near construction site in Hammond Bay area in Nanaimo, B.C.

Laid-off forest workers converge on B.C. legislature

Loggers call for action on strike, provincial stumpage

B.C. guide fined $2K in first conviction under new federal whale protection laws

Scott Babcock found guilty of approaching a North Pacific humpback whale at less than 100 metres

Feds urge Air Canada to fix booking problems as travel season approaches

The airline introduced the new reservation system more than three weeks ago

Almost 14,000 Canadians killed by opioids since 2016: new national study

17,000 people have been hospitalized for opioid-related poisoning

Chevron’s move to exit Kitimat LNG project a dash of ‘cold water’ for gas industry

Canada Energy Regulator approved a 40-year licence to export natural gas for Kitimat LNG

Most Read