Pro-Labour NDP Open to Real Bargaining with Unions in BC

by Stephen Petrina on November 16, 2012

Feeling pressures of government intervention and the net zero worker mandate of the Liberal Government’s Public Sector Employer’s Council (PSEC), CUPE 2278 Teaching Assistants curtailed job action and the University of British Columbia ratified an Agreement yesterday.  The 0%, 0%, 2%, 2% wage increases for the 2010-2014 contract is in line with the average annual increases of just 0.3% for public employees in the province, the lowest in Canada.

With an upcoming election in the spring of 2013, at this point unions are better off deferring settlements and betting that the 99% have had it with the BC Liberals and will elect an NDP government on 14 May 2013.  After years of the Liberals suppressing wages under PSEC’s net zero worker mandate, which made wage negotiations with employers a fiction, bargaining with the NDP will actually be bargaining.

NDP leader Adrian Dix has demonstrated the signs necessary to lead a pro-labour party to election victory and was quite candid about this in a recent interview with BCBusiness:

Public-sector unions have tolerated “net-zero” wage controls in recent years, but tolerance seems to be wearing thin. Would you be in favour of substantial “catch-up” wage hikes?
You negotiate at the bargaining table and what we’ve had over the last period was real inconsistency from the current government in the way they’ve treated public-sector unions. You’ve had, contrary to specific promises, the tearing up of contracts. Can you imagine engaging in that practice on the business side and that being good for the economy? The [current] government’s bills 27, 28 and 29, which were singularly important in health and education bargaining, were found to be illegal in the courts. That’s their approach. We had to pay for those actions. So I think you need to be balanced in these things.

These are difficult fiscal times and I expect negotiations to be difficult and challenging. Remember, the government at the bargaining table right now is offering wage increases. Should they be offering wage increases? I think the Liberals have answered yes. In order to get agreements in these next two years they’re offering wage increases right now as we speak. So they’re no longer at net zero. You only have one government at a time and they’re negotiating right now. My recommendation to all parties is that they negotiate at the bargaining table.

Read more: BCBusiness November 2012