West Kootenay ferry workers, employer reach settlement

Tentative deal ends ongoing threat of job action on Kootenay Lake ferry

The ferry dispute in the West Kootenay appears to be over.

The union representing ferry workers in Glade, Harrop-Procter and Kootenay Lake says it has reached a tentative deal with the employer.

“The communities of Kootenay Lake are no longer facing disruptions to their ferry service due to the labour dispute between BC Government and Service Employees’ Union ferry workers and their employer, Western Pacific Marine,” says a union news release.

It says the new deal was settled on Nov. 26 after 13 days of “intensive bargaining”. The two sides have been locked in a dispute over a new contract for nearly five months, and workers disrupted service on the Kootenay Lake ferry several times in September and October to pressure bargaining.

“This bargaining process was hard work and this tentative agreement is fantastic news,” said BCGEU President Stephanie Smith. “I’m proud of the solidarity shown by our members and the support of the community throughout this process. And I’m grateful that the employer was ultimately willing to get back to the table and get this deal done.”

The tentative agreement includes provisions similar in principle to the collective agreement between the union and the other two inland ferries employers—WaterBridge Ferries and Waterbridge Equipment. That agreement was overwhelmingly ratified by union members in October.

These provisions included wage parity with BC Ferries within the term of the agreement and a commitment to successor-ship training that will protect existing members.

BCGEU members will vote on the agreement this weekend. The union’s bargaining committee is recommending ratification. If ratified, the WPM agreement will take effect immediately and expire on March 31, 2024.

The communities of Glade and Harrop were unaffected by the union’s job action due to an essential service ruling made August 29. When talks resumed on November 13, the union eased up on its job action – which had been resulting in up to 70 per cent of regular sailings being cancelled per day – ensuring all regularly scheduled sailings on Kootenay Lake while bargaining was ongoing.

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