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CRD unionized employees strike continues into fourth week

The strike began in early May
Cariboo Regional District workers walk the picket line on Third Avenue Wednesday morning in Williams Lake. The strike is now in its third week, something the BCGEU members described as stressful and disappointing. (Angie Mindus photo/Williams Lake Tribune)

The Cariboo Regional District (CRD) worker’s strike that began last month has been prolonged.

The BC General and Service Employees Union (BCGEU), which represents 109 employees, served the initial 72-hour strike notice to the CRD on May 7 and there has yet to be a resolution a month later.

In a June 5 release, the BCGEU stated that the CRD’s upper management is “refusing to return to the table with a deal that’s in-line with what workers or the community needs, which is putting vital services at risk of a prolonged job action.”

Current spring activities, such as the CRD’s Invasive Plant Management program, are on hold as they are staffed by union employees.

“We do not have the capacity to offer the program while the strike action is in effect,” Murray Daly, CRD chief administrative officer, told Black Press earlier this week.

The CRD manages the invasive and chaotic exotic plant species that have the capacity to negatively impact humans, animals and ecosystems. These plants are generally free of natural predators, causing them to have a competitive edge over desirable and native vegetation. With the program currently on hold, many invasive species will continue to grow.

The BCGEU said their CRD members do highly specialized and time-sensitive work in the invasive-plant department, and the longer the CRD hold out, the more they are putting this work at risk.

“We are fast approaching a critical point in the growing season where many invasive plants are beginning to flower,” the BCGEU stated. “To stop the rapid spread of species, invasive-plant workers must treat species before they flower. It’s a small window of time that they have, and if it’s missed, it could take many years to get some of these invasive plant populations under control again.”

Daly went on to say that other functions are being managed by exempt staff, including building inspection and planning, but timelines for applications and permits will be impacted by the labour dispute, leading to longer processing times.

Essential services such as the CRD’s fire departments, water and sewer system operations, landfills and transfer stations will continue to be provided during the labour action.

Daly also said the CRD has reached out to the BCGEU, seeking a return to the negotiation table, but there has been no confirmation returned by the union as of yet on when this could take place.

“We as the employer wish to see our colleagues return to work as soon as possible and for a fair and mutually acceptable agreement tot me reached with the union,” he said. “We are, however, accountable to the taxpayers of the Cariboo Regional District and any agreement with the union must also be fair to the taxpaying public.”

Paul Finch, BCGEU president-elect, said that the CRD owes it to the Cariboo community to provide workers with wage protections they need to keep calling the region their home.

“Wages that can keep up with thew cost of living are key to attracting and retaining expertise needed to deliver strong services now and into the future,” he said. “It’s disappointing that upper management is so blatantly ignoring the impact that our members have on the prosperity of the entire Cariboo Region.”

Workers on strike have been bargaining with the CRD since January, and formed their first picket line in Williams Lake on May 13. The strike then expanded into Quesnel and 100 Mile House shortly after.

The strike has also led to the closure of CRD libraries.

READ MORE: CRD unionized employees issue 72-hour-strike notice

About the Author: Alexander Vaz, Local Journalism Initiative

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