Western Pacific Marine Ltd, operators of the Kootenay Lake Ferry system, issued a media release Saturday explaining their side of the ongoing dispute that has caused service interruptions and that has seen regular sailings reduced to a few essential sailings per day during the past few weeks.
These disruptions has hampered the community on both sides of Kootenay Lake that depend on the ferry to get to appointments, work and school. Friday, there was a rally sponsored by a group called Our Ferry Matters to raise awareness of these ferry disruptions.
Western Pacific Marine Ltd. Media Release:
Due to a strike by unionized workers with the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU), the Kootenay Lake Ferry between Balfour and Kootenay Bay is currently experiencing service interruptions, with service reduced to a limited number of essential sailings per day.
WPM recognizes the important role that regularly scheduled ferry service on Kootenay Lake plays in the lives of local communities and residents in the region. We are proud to operate this service on behalf of the provincial government and hope to return to full service as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, our crews, which are represented by the BCGEU, have gone on strike seeking a pay package that would make ferry service on Kootenay Lake more costly than the company could sustain.
In an effort to reach a settlement, WPM offered the union a package that included wage increases of 2%,2% and 2% over the next three years. Those increases reflect the terms of the collective agreement the BCGEU signed with the Province this April for 2019-2022.
Rather than accept those terms, this local union bargaining unit is asking for salary increases that far exceed that of other current BCGEU agreements and industry standards for these marine positions. For instance, for 2nd Class Engineers currently making $109,601 per year (wages + cash-equivalent benefits), the Union is seeking a 43% increase to an annual wage and benefits of $156,729, significantly higher than anyone in management. The union has also made excessive wage demands for other various positions, which would significantly exceed the wages paid to comparable positions at BC Ferries. Beyond salaries, the union is also seeking significant increases to its benefit packages, which already exceed those in other BCGEU agreements.
Despite this approach by the union, we have repeatedly asked the union to consider mediation or arbitration in order to come to a reasonable agreement and resume full ferry service. Unfortunately, the union has refused to sit down with us since June 5.
We know that for the thousands of British Columbians who depend on the region’s ferry service for work, school, health care or travel, every scheduled sailing is an essential sailing. Our hope is that the union will reconsider its position and come back to the table with reasonable requests that will move us forward to a settled agreement.
Captain Bryan Coe, Marine Superintendent, Western Pacific Marine Ltd.
Diane Finnie, Human and Labour Relations Manager, Western Pacific Marine Ltd.