( BCGEU job action. James Coccola)

The BC General Employees Union (BCGEU) says it has accepted an offer to return to negotiations with the province.

BCs largest public-sector union said bargaining is expected to resume soon, but details are still being confirmed.

Both parties have agreed to a media blackout and no further comment will be made.

The union, which represents 3,000 members, escalated job action on Monday by banning non-emergency overtime for BCGEU members working in the BC Public Service Agency (PSA).

“This is a significant development, and it is the direct result of the pressure BCGEU members have applied, which includes the current job action and shows solidarity from BCGEU members and allies,” BCGEU said.

In order to maintain that pressure, the union said it would continue with the current job action until further notice.

In a statement last week, BCGEU president Stephanie Smith said wage protection is the workers’ top concern amid high inflation.

The union is the province’s largest public sector union representing employees in an array of fields including wildfire fighters, social workers, sheriffs and correctional officers.

The most recent collective agreement between the union and PSA expired on April 1st and while discussions began earlier this year, talks stalled in July.

In June, 95% of the union members voted in favour of job action.

BCGEU are asking for a 5% pay boost each year for two years or a raise to match the cost of living, whichever is higher.

The PSA sent an offer directly to members last month, a deal that included a nearly 11 per cent increase over three years, plus a $2,500-per-member signing bonus.

Picket lines went up outside BC Liquor Distribution Branch centres in Delta, Richmond and Kamloops, as well as the wholesale customer centre here in Victoria last Monday.

A prolonged strike at the liquor distribution sites would impact the flow of imported beer, wine and spirits, since bars and restaurants can only buy directly from wineries and craft breweries in BC.

According to the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, the province’s 670 private liquor stores and 8,000 pubs, bars and restaurants will begin to see shortages if the strike action hits three days.

“Targeting the liquor distribution centres is unfair to restaurants already struggling to get back on their feet after the pandemic,” the association said in a statement.

“Business owners will start to feel the pressure by the end of the week if a strike lasts.”

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