Essential ferry service levels still not set

  • Nov. 21, 2003 4:00 p.m.

Still no word as of Friday on the number of ferry runs to the islands in case of a strike, but the province is dusting off a 1976 law enabling the government to order a 90-day cooling off period in case of a serious labour disruption.
“We are fast approaching the Christmas holiday period. This is often the only time of the year when BC’s families can be together and being able to make holiday travel plans is essential to people’s well-being,” says Labour Minister Graham Bruce.
Mr. Bruce says he hopes the two sides can resolve their differences at the bargaining table. “The province fully supports the company and the union working together to resolve these issues. At the same time we have a duty to protect the public interest and consider the impact that a disruption of ferry services would have at this important time of the year,” he says.
BC Ferries applied to the BC Labour Relations Board Nov. 19 for a mediator to help with contract negotiations.
“We are at a virtual stand-still on critical issues and the parties need assistance from a mediator to move ahead,” says the head of BC Ferries David Hahn.
The BC Ferry and Marine Workers Union will attend sessions with the mediator, says Dan Rowe, unioon spokesperson, but they are disappointed that BC Ferries has taken this step. The union tried to address BC Ferries concerns about overtime and flexibility of hours of work in its last contract proposal, but the employer rejected it out of hand, he says.
The Labour Relations Board appointed mediator Stephen Rinfret. Negotiations will resume in early December.