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Kootenay Ferry users organize Unity Sailing 2.0

Nelson Daily Staff
By Nelson Daily Staff
October 24th, 2019

Kootenay Lake ferry users refuse to give up.

A group of calling themselves Our Ferry Matters is planning a second Unity Sailing rally Saturday starting at 1 p.m. from the Kootenay Bay terminal.

With both union and management sides dug in, and no end in sight of a new contract that would end weeks of ferry disruptions, the group hopes to keep the pressure on all parties involved in the dispute.

“Come and take a stand with us,” said Megan Rokeby-Thomas of Kootenay Bay, a key organizer who also travelled to the Victoria Legislature to advocate for immediate resolution.

“We are a non-partisan group with the sole purpose of bringing all three parties to the table to facilitate a swift end to the labour dispute. We can’t let this uncertainty continue for much longer.”

The Kootenay Lake Ferry has been dealing with on and off disruptions to service since unionized workers with the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) walked off the job during the Labour Day weekend.

The union, without a contract since the spring of 2019, has been locked in a stalemate with operators of the ferries, Western Pacific Marine Ltd.

The union is looking for a new collective agreement that will address long-standing issues for ferry workers with substandard wages, benefits and training that have created a staffing crisis for the ferry service.

Both Western Pacific Marine Ltd. and BCGEU have taken to the media to get voice their stand, instead of bargaining at the table.

Unionized workers returned to work following the strike Labour Day weekend but started refusing to work overtime, which combined with scheduled holidays by some members, forced some sailings to be cancelled due to not enough crew available to operate the vessels.

The rally begins at 1 p.m. from Kootenay Bay, and 2 p.m. from Balfour landing.

The East Shore group will ride the ferry to meet the Balfour people before everyone rides the ferry back at 2:50 p.m. The West Shore group return to Balfour on the 3:40 p.m. sailing.

The organizing group is collecting personal stories of hardship caused by the labour dispute.

The public can become involved by:

  • Participating on Saturday as a show of unity and determination.
  • Sharing of stories, writing letters, connecting on the Our Ferry Matters website.
  • Join the Facebook Group: Our Ferry Matters.
  • Calling for action by the provincial government to get involved with Western Pacific Marine and the union to end the uncertainty that the labour relations are causing.

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