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

Village might earn $384,000 in camp deal

The Village of Burns Lake is set to receive hundreds of thousands… Continue reading

Helping the Burns Lake community for 13 years

In its 13 years of existence, the Burns Lake and District Community… Continue reading

TV signals restored, rebroadcast society says

Television reception for Burns Lake and Southside residents with regular TVs was… Continue reading

BC Moose Tracker app aids in management

There are smartphone apps that compile user data on restaurants, bars and… Continue reading

Nations Cannabis building up

Construction continues on the Nations Cannabis production facility, located near Decker Lake,… Continue reading

Shambhala named best music festival in North America

Shambhala Music Festival is held at the Salmo River Ranch in B.C.

B.C. MLA calls on province to restrict vaping as first related illness appears in Canada

Todd Stone, Liberal MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson, introduced an anti-vaping bill in April

Chilliwack woman wins right to medically assisted death after three-year court battle

Julia Lamb has been the lead plaintiff in a legal battle to ease restrictions on Canada’s assisted dying laws

B.C. bus crash survivor petitions feds to fix road where classmates died

UVic student’s petition well over halfway to 5k signature goal

NDP, Liberals promise more spending, while Tories promise spending cuts

Making life more affordable for Canadians a focus in the 2019 election

UPDATE: Police probe third threat against a Kamloops high school in eight days

Police have not released any further details into what the threat includes

Charges dropped against Mountie involved in shooting death of Surrey man

‘I feel like I’ve lost Hudson all over again,’ says mom

B.C. Interior caribou protection area big enough, minister says

Proposals sparked protest in Kootenays, Williams Lake region

Two B.C. women selected to compete on ABC’s The Bachelor

Mykenna Dorn and Alexis Thind will compete for bachelor Peter Weber’s heart

Most Read