North Shore government workers, including liquor store clerks, child protection workers and justice ministry staff, walked the picket line Wednesday to draw attention to frozen wages and stalled contract talks.
They were part of 27,000 unionized employees who staged a one-day strike across the province. The work stoppage affected more than 1,700 government and ICBC offices and B.C. Liquor Stores across the province. Essential services in the courts, prisons, child protection and forest fire service were not affected.
Shaunee Dunn was on strike for the first time in the 14 years she’s spent working as a clerk at the liquor store on 132 Esplanade Avenue.
“I think there’s a perception that we make lots of money sometimes, but we don’t really make that much money,” said Dunn.
Dunn and co-worker Sean Desjardins said they go paycheque-to-paycheque on their modest pay, which has not gone up for the past three and a half years.
The one-day strike is “not going to hurt them financially that much, not as much as if we’d done it in the summer or Christmas, but we hope it brings them back to the bargaining table,” said Desjardins, who has worked at the store for nine years.
The B.C. Government Employees Union is asking for a 3.5 per cent wage increase this year and a cost-of-living increase next year. The union has rejected the provincial government’s offer of a 2 per cent increase the first year and a 1.5 per cent increase the second year, a proposal the government has now taken off the table.
Members of the Professional Employees Union and the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union joined the BCGEU in the job action.