The Kootenay Lake ferry is a vital link in our community, and I understand the deep impact that the interruption of ferry service has had on local residents and businesses. The bargaining process between the parties in the ongoing dispute is fully independent of the Province. While we urge the parties involved to do their utmost to reach a fair agreement that will minimize further disruptions, the government has by contract and law no role in the negotiations and must respect the independent process and the independence of the Labour Relations Board that oversees disputes. I appreciate constituents’ strong voices on this issue, and all Kootenay residents can be sure that I share their concerns and the hope that an agreement between the parties will be reached as soon as possible. My staff and I are always here to speak to anyone in the community about this issue and answer their questions, and thank everyone for their understanding as my office compiles fulsome and factual information for the region. I have included a fact sheet below and I encourage anyone with questions to contact my community office.
- Inland ferry service is delivered through contracts with private companies on behalf of the ministry. The BC Transportation Financing Authority (the ministry) owns the vessels and terminals but the employer is the private contractor. Western Pacific Marine Ltd is responsible for the operation of the Kootenay Lake, Glade, and Harrop ferries.
- The most recent ferry service agreements for the Kootenay Lake Ferries were awarded in 2018 and have a ten-year term – the first five of which is fixed. For this service contract, the employer has a collective agreement with the BCGEU. The collective agreement expired on March 31, 2019 and since that time, while both parties have met to exchange bargaining proposals, they have not reached an agreement.
- The ministry is not part of the collective bargaining process, which is taking place between the private company employer and union (BCGEU) representing inland ferry workers. We respect the collective bargaining process, and are hopeful that negotiations will be successful in the near future. We have urged both parties to work together to find creative solutions to the issues they face.
- Government is funding annual salary increases that are the same as those negotiated by employees in the public sector. We have urged both parties to work together to find creative solutions to the issues they face. Private contractors have the ability to adjust their budget to generate additional funds for collective agreement changes within the overall funding from the Province. We respect the collective bargaining process, and are hopeful that negotiations will be successful in the near future.
- While ferry services are designated as essential, the Labour Relations Board (LRB) determines the service levels during a job action. For the Kootenay Lake ferry service (including the main Kootenay Lake service, Harrop and Glade), the LRB established the essential service levels at the end of August, and with it, allowed the union to put forward 72-hour strike notice which resulted in the labour day strike.
- Service interruptions resulting from an overtime ban continue. The LRB ruled that the Osprey 2000 (Kootenay Lake) must run a minimum of three round trips on weekdays (excluding statutory holidays). While operating on essential service, priority is given to health care professionals, persons with medical appointments, school staff, students and parents transporting students. Who qualifies for service will be decided by the operator, Western Pacific Marine.