Negotiations put on hold

by Jacqueline Massey

(The Bowen Island Undercurrent, November 6th 1998, p1: with permission)

While BC Ferry workers are no longer poised to strike, a settlement between the union and the BC Ferry Corporation may still be a long way off.

This week, negotiations were put on hold while hearings were held to determine if ferry transportation is an essential service as defined by legislation. Mediator Stephen Winfred was appointed by the government after BC Ferries applied to the Labour Relations Board for the designation of essential services last Friday.

Two days prior to that, the BC Ferry and Marine Workers Union issued a 72-hour strike notice. The Union;s contract with BC Ferries expired Oct. 31.

Tom Ward, president of BC Ferries, said the corporation moved to request that the designation of essential services be granted to protect customers and communities relying on ferry service in the event of a work stoppage.

“While this is simply another step in the negotiation process and I remain confident that a collective agreement can be reached without disruption to service, we must take appropriate preventative measures to ensure an appropriate level of service is maintained,” said Ward on Friday.

On Monday, BC Ferries proposed a comprehensive settlement package to the union, which represents a membership of 4,357. In response, Ken Michael, president of the BCFMWU said the the proposal was “absolutely unacceptable.”

In a negotiation update to union members, Michael assured ferry workers that he was working to “get back into a legal strike situation as quickly as possible.” He later stated that “there will be no talks if progress is not meaningful and I will suggest to you that without your ability to exercise your legal options, the talks will not be that way, as they have not been this past week.”

Contract negotiations are scheduled to recommence Nov. 8.

The last time ferry workers went on strike was in 1979. The union orgainzed four days of rotating strikes causing disruption to ferry service.

Page last updated 99-10-31