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Unions 2, BC Government 1

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Section: Canadian News Geography: West Topics: labour

March 29, 2006

Unions 2, BC Government 1

by Gwalgen Geordie Dent

British Columbia's second largest labour union, the B.C. Government and Services Employees' Union (BCGEU), successfully had their concerns addressed in the province's third major labour dispute since 2004.

The Liberal Government has squared off against workers in Canada's most unionized province repeatedly over the last three years, nearly causing a general strike when it tried to implement legislation to force Hospital Employee Union (HEU) workers, 90 per cent of whom are women, back to work in 2004. After allowing HEU contracts to be "ripped up" by hospitals, the government forced the union to accept a 15 per cent pay cut, an increased work week and weak limits on contracting-out of services. The union that initially defied the back-to-work legislation was hit with a $150,000 fine.

The B.C. Government's second attempt to legislate a large union back to work in 2005 was less successful. The mostly female B.C. Teachers' Federation, led by Jinny Sims, defied back to work legislation as well, resulting in the largest fine for a union in Canadian history: $500,000. The government, however, was forced to accept an arbitrated settlement, including $60 million to balance teachers' salaries, cut class sizes and money to deal with special needs students.

This month, the BCGEU avoided a strike that many had predicted when the B.C. Government agreed to "wage increases of 10 per cent over four years, a signing bonus and better job security," according to the CBC.

Other disputes may be on the horizon, however. According to General Strike News, March 31 is the day contracts expire for many unions-- including B.C.'s largest union, CUPE-- and the year-long agreements reached with the HEU and the B.C. Teachers' Federation will come to an end.

Geordie Gwalgen Dent

» CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2005/10/23/teachers-sunday051023.html

» General Strike News

» CBC: BCGEU reaches 4-year contract deal

» CBC: Sellout in BC; Workers Remain Defiant

» CBC: BCGEU strike threat looms

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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