Highways Bargaining - LRB appoints mediator, allows job action

May 24, 2007

The British Columbia Labour Relations Board issued today its decision regarding stalled negotiations between BCGEU highways workers and private highways contractors in the province.

The LRB ruling comes after an endless series of applications from employers seeking to:
• re-define the scope of highways bargaining
• establish the length of the next collective agreement
• deal with issues relating to bad faith bargaining
• challenge the validity of union strike votes

The LRB indicated to both the union and employers that endless litigation was unlikely to lead to a new collective agreement.

The Board has ordered the parties to mediation and asked mediator Vince Ready to assist the parties to reach agreements throughout this sector.

We argued, and the LRB ruled that there are no restrictions whatsoever on the union's right to maintain strikes, take further strike votes or commence additional strike action. Job action is always a last resort, but the LRB decision reaffirms our right to withdraw services if negotiations are going nowhere.

Our members employed by VSA Highways Maintenance have been locked out for 5 weeks in Nicola-Merritt. Members employed by Mainroad South Island Contracting on southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands walked out Tuesday morning. Members in the Prince George service area employed by Yellowhead Road and Bridge walked out Wednesday morning. We are grateful for their dedication and the sacrifices they are making.

Highways workers in others parts of the province are preparing strike action while others are taking strike votes, including members at Argo Road Maintenance in Okanagan-Shuswap who voted 94% in favour of strike action which could commence as early as next week.

Together we are bringing pressure to bear on highways contractors across the province. This strike activity will reinforce our position to reject seven year contracts with increases as paltry as 0.27% annual increases.

The union welcomes the LRB decision and is fully committed to broad based negotiations on all outstanding issues that will lead to a fair collective agreement for our members. This has been our position from the start.

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