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Province and BCGEU reach agreement with zero pay increase

There will be no wage increases for public service employees under a two-year agreement reached between the provincial government and the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union.

“It's obviously a very big bargaining unit and one that's very key to the overall success of this round of bargaining,” said B.C. finance minister Colin Hansen. “I was thrilled to see that it was concluded at the negotiating table and within the net zero mandate.”

The agreement comes as the government wrestles with the lingering effects of the recession, said Hansen. “This is not the time that governments are going to have the kind of revenues necessary to afford increased labour and benefit costs and I think the unions are recognizing that.”

The 29,000 BCGEU members covered by the agreement include child protection workers, health care workers, environment officials, corrections officers and sheriffs, conservation officers, public liquor store employees and administrative workers, according to the union's announcement.

The agreement includes improved coverage for hearing aids, the union's summary says, but caps the amount for massage therapy at $750 a year and increases the annual deductible from $65 to $80. There will also be “a new process to address bullying in the workforce.”

“This has been an exceptionally difficult round of negotiations, but the tentative agreement we are recommending to the members is reasonable given the difficult economic situation facing the province,” said BCGEU president Darryl Walker in the announcement.

The agreement includes renewed and improved job security measures, a BCGEU spokesperson stressed in an email message. The union's announcement quoted Walker saying job security was the number one issue for BCGEU members and the tentative agreement would not have been signed without those measures. *

The BCGEU has planned information meetings starting April 12 with the ratification voting beginning April 19.

More than 200,000 civil service workers have contracts expiring between March 31 and the end of the year. Hansen said half of those workers are now covered by new agreements.

* Added March 30 to clarify the union's position.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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