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Dates set for BCGEU, Western Pacific Marine to resume bargaining

The two sides in the dispute have agreed to resume bargaining November 13.

The BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) said Wednesday in a media release the two sides in the Kootenay Lake Ferry dispute will return to the bargaining table November 13.

The union said the resumption of talks comes more than five months after the two sides — BCGEU and Western Pacific Marine — reached an impasse in June.

“We’re happy WPM has agreed to come back to the table,” said Stephanie Smith, BCGEU president.

“We have the same goal for the WPM contract that we had for Waterbridge. In the past, our contracts with these employers have followed the same principles, and that’s what we’re aiming for again.”

Wednesday the BCGEU said members voted overwhelmingly to ratify collective agreements with WaterBridge Ferries and Waterbridge Equipment, avoiding job action that would have disrupted service on the Adams Lake, Arrow Lake and Francois Lake ferries.

“Our members had one goal in this round of bargaining—to get contracts that ensured the long-term sustainability of these ferries by addressing recruitment and retention through wage parity with BC Ferries and a commitment to successorship training,” said Smith.

“They achieved their goal and that’s a huge win for our members, for their employers and for everyone who relies on these ferries.”

Inland ferry workers have been without a contract since March 31, 2019. The Waterbridge agreements take effective immediately and expire on March 31, 2022.

The union initiated job action on Western Pacific Marine Kootenay Lake route with a three-day work stoppage over the Labour Day long weekend and an overtime restriction that started on September 18.

While the overtime restriction remains officially in effect, the union will be authorizing overtime to ensure all regularly scheduled sailings on Kootenay Lake as long as bargaining is ongoing.

This will avoid any cancellations of sailings due to not enough staff to safely man the vessels.