On Friday, the BC General Employees’ Union (BCGEU), which represents about 33,000 public service workers across the province, issued a strike notice which began yesterday.
On Monday, 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.
Retail liquor and cannabis stores will not be part of this phase of job action.
In a statement, 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 Public Service Agency (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.
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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.”
The BCGEU would not reveal what its next step in job action would be if the picket lines do not prove to be effective.