Residents attempting to order a birth certificate, visit a provincial park or grab some spirits from the BC Liquor store on Wednesday were greeted by picket lines.
A one-day protest by the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) meant job action across the Sunshine Coast, Sept. 5.
As many as 25,000 government employees represented by BCGEU, including corrections officers, sheriffs, court staff, social workers and those in the direct employ of B.C. ministries, have been without a contract since March of this year.
Strike coordinator Roy Kilby could be seen in front of the Sechelt BC Liquor store along with several other government employees demanding a fair contract.
“Fair wages,” was his response to queries from the public, curious about why the establishment was closed on a Wednesday afternoon. “We’re not asking for a lot, we just want cost of living increases and it’s a 3.5 per cent increase.”
Six workers blocked the doors to the liquor store in the early afternoon, and more were expected.
Just down the street at Service BC, employees from the transportation and social development ministries joined service workers also calling for a fair wage.
The office remained open as managerial staff were not on strike.
Visitors generally respected the picket line, opting to take care of such matters as applying for a new birth certificate at a later date, but those who couldn’t wait slipped in quietly behind the protesters.
District of Sechelt Coun. Alice Lutes, also a director at the Sunshine Coast Regional District, joined the group in front of the liquor store to show solidarity.
“It’s disgusting,” she said of the drawn out negotiations. “To let it go this long is unfair to the workers and it’s unfair to the community not to have the certainty of support.”
While no longer a government employee herself, Lutes said she wanted to support the cause of BCGEU members demanding a cost of living increase.
“The people in power get more than a cost of living [increase] every year,” she said.
Picketers were also reportedly active at Porpoise Bay Provincial Park, though they could not be located early on Wednesday afternoon.
According to Oliver Rohlfs, communications officer with BCGEU, the one-day job action impacted approximately 1,785 workplaces across B.C. and affected 153 communities.
While he predicted slow service and longer wait times at government offices in B.C., the strike action did not call upon essential workers, like child protection officers, to join the protest.
Also included on the list of essential services were corrections officers and any other direct government employees, “there to protect the health, safety and welfare of British Columbians.”
Non-essential social workers employed directly by the province were also likely involved, but on the Coast, many are contracted employees.
Vicki Dobbyn, executive director of Sunshine Coast Community Services Society, said she was not expecting any interruptions.
“We don’t have any job action pending,” she said.