( BCGEU job action. James Coccola)

The BC General Employees Union (BCGEU) says it has reached a tentative agreement in the public service negotiations with the province.

The agreement comes following more than seven months of negotiations and job action that lasted almost two weeks, covering 33,000 unit members working in direct government service. 

“The members of this bargaining unit have been clear from the day we started preparing for bargaining last fall that their top priorities were wage increases and meaningful wage protections and our committee took that message to the PSA,” said Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU and chair of the bargaining committee. 

“The 95% strike vote we got in June and actioned in August was our members’ response to an offer that showed their employer had not gotten the message,” said Smith. 

“After almost two weeks of job action and nine consecutive days at the table, enough progress was made that the committee decided it was time to let our members see what’s on offer and have their say.”

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 in July, a deal that included a nearly 11% increase over three years, plus a $2,500-per-member signing bonus.

In August, 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.

Later the same month, the BCGEU agreed to return to the bargaining table with the BC government. 

Timelines for the ratification vote will be confirmed in the coming days.

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