Central Cariboo highways maintenance workers, Barkerville staff vote to join BCGEU

July 13, 2006

Close to 50 workers from two separate employee groups in the Interior have voted to join the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union.

Three dozen highways maintenance workers in Williams Lake and surrounding area have voted in favour of union representation with BCGEU. The new union members are employed by R1890 Holdings Ltd., the company which holds the contract under B.C.'s privatized highways maintenance system for the Central Cariboo.

They look after highway, road and bridge maintenance services for a large swath of the province, from Williams Lake to Bella Coola, and the many communities in between.

In addition, seven employees of the Barkerville Heritage Trust have also voted to certify with BCGEU. They join other BCGEU members already employed at the historic Barkerville site east of Quesnel. The trust was locally established after the Campbell government privatized operation of the province's historic sites starting in 2003.

"I want to extend a warm welcome to the new members who have joined our organization for the strong, forceful voice that we can provide in their workplace and their community," says BCGEU president George Heyman. "With our reputation for negotiating good contracts and the wide range of services we provide which few labour groups can match, we continue to be the union of choice for unorganized workers who are looking to make their working lives better."

The decision of R1890 Holdings Ltd. staff means that workers in 27 of 28 privatized provincial highways maintenance contracts are now unionized. And with bargaining for some 2,000 BCGEU members who work in highways maintenance sector across the province getting ready to kick off this fall, Heyman says the vote result is an important boost.

"I think it sends a clear message to private contractors that their unionized staff will be pushing hard at the bargaining table," he says, "to win back ground lost in the last contract when the B.C. Liberal government threatened our members with widespread cuts and layoffs."

So far this year, more than 1,700 B.C. workers have joined the BCGEU - by far more than any other union in the province. Heyman says it's a sign that his union's commitment to organizing is attracting a lot of interest from unorganized workers.

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Contact Stephen Howard BCGEU Communications Officer, 604-992-0105