Strike-struck B.C.: A roundup of job action affecting the province

From striking university faculty to loggers to support staff at schools, thousands of British Columbians have walked off the job in recent months.

While the reason why so many labour disputes are taking place at this moment is largely an issue of timing — a number of contracts are up for negotiation simultaneously — a common theme underlying many of the strikes is frustration wages have not kept up with the cost of living

Here's a round-up of major job action across the province, with details on each dispute below:

Employees at Western Forest Products

Maggie MacPherson/CBC

Status: Strike ongoing since July 1. 

Who: Around 3,000 coastal forest workers, represented by the United Steelworkers Union, are striking against Western Forest Products Inc. 

Why: The union says it wants a four-year deal with wage increases of three per cent in the first two years and 2.5 per cent in the last two.

Action: Workers have been without pay since the summer, and the company's shares have taken a hit on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

University of Northern B.C. faculty 

Mike McArthur/CBC

Status: Strike ongoing since Nov. 7. 

Who: 180 professors and other faculty staff, represented by the University of Northern British Columbia Faculty Association, are striking against their employer, the University of Northern British Columbia. 

Why:  The group wants a new salary structure and higher wages, but there are also conflicts around the tenure and promotions process and disciplinary measures. 

Action: Classes have been cancelled since strike action began, the university says it will offer a non-refundable financial credit to affected students. 

Kootenay Lake ferry workers

Catherine Hansen/CBC

Status: Ongoing since Sept. 1.

Who: 80 ferry workers, represented by the B.C. Government and Service Employers' Union, have been striking against their employer, Western Pacific Marine Ltd. The Kootenay Lake ferry runs between Balfour and a terminal near Crawford Bay, and is an important route for locals and the tourism industry. 

Why: The conflict surrounds overtime and wages. 

Action: Since the ferry is deemed an essential service, workers reduced sailings but have not eliminated them altogether. The BCGEU estimates up to 70 per cent of regular sailings per day have been unable to run.

Legal aid staff lawyers

Submitted by Our Ferry Matters

Status: Strike ongoing since Nov. 1. 

Who: 26 staff lawyers with the Legal Services Society, represented by the Professional Employees Association (PEA), are striking against the B.C. government. 

Why: The union says staff lawyers earn less than Crown counsel or independently contracted legal aid lawyers. 

Action: Staff staged a one-day walkout on Nov. 1. Since Nov. 22, staff are only completing essential client and case work. According to the PEA, staff will no longer perform administrative duties like responding to emails from management or attending staff meetings.

Telecommunications technicians at Ledcor

Status: Strike ongoing since Sept. 30.

Who: Dozens of telecommunications technicians, represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 213, working at Ledcor.

Why: Regular cuts in pay, extended work hours, unjust firings and deteriorating working conditions were cited as reasons for the strike. Month of bargaining have been unsuccessful and workers took up picketing after 31 staffers were fired in September.

Action: The union served strike notice on Sept. 25. Workers walked off the job and began picketing outside the Ledcor office in Port Coquitlam on Sept. 30. 

Metro Vancouver transit workers (resolved)


Status: Resolved. The job action ran Nov. 1-26. 

Who: 5,000 workers represented by Unifor Locals 111 and 2200 were striking against TransLink's Coast Mountain Bus Company. A separate contract negotiation is ongoing between the B.C. Rapid Transit Company and 900 SkyTrain workers represented by CUPE 7000. 

Why: Wages and working conditions were the main sticking points. Unifor said the salaries of their employees have not been comparable to salaries in other major cities

Action: Starting Nov. 1, there were cuts to SeaBus service and workers refused to work overtime on a rotating basis. A full bus and SeaBus shutdown was planned for Nov. 27-29, which would have affected up to 350,000 customers, but that was averted with a tentative deal reached shortly after midnight Nov. 27.

Saanich school support workers (resolved)

Ben Nelms/CBC

Status: Resolved. The strike ran Oct. 28-Nov. 16.

Who: 500 support staff workers represented by CUPE Local 441 were striking against the Saanich School District. 

Why: The union argued its members pay was significantly lower than neighbouring school districts like Greater Victoria. 

Action: Schools in the Saanich School District were closed during the strike; students will make up lost instructional time via changes to their schedule. 

Downtown Vancouver hotel workers (resolved)

Kathryn Marlow/CBC

Status: Resolved. The strike action ran Sept. 19-Oct. 17 at the Hyatt Regency, Westin Bayshore, and Pinnacle Harbourfront; and Sept. 19-Nov. 18 at the Hotel Georgia. 

Who: 1,200 hotel workers from the Hotel Georgia, Hyatt Regency, Westin Bayshore, and Pinnacle Harbourfront represented by Unite Here Local 40. 

Why: Workers agreed to a new deal that will see raises of up to 25 per cent, and new standards for workplace safety, sexual harassment and job security.

Action: Striking workers picketed daily up and down the sidewalk outside the hotels' entrance. The Hyatt Regency, Westin Bayshore and Pinnacle Hotels all launched lawsuits against the workers citing "deafening noise."