Nanimo (8 April 2020) – BC Ferries has announced temporary layoffs due to service reductions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While some staff adjustments were expected, the sudden dismissal of hundreds of Members of the Union BC Ferry & Marine Workers left the union blind and raised fears that these dismissals would be in violation of the clear provisions of their collective agreement. Bcfmwu is a member organization of the B.C. Government and Service Employees` Union (BGEU/NUPGE). “Abrupt dismissal without notice and other severance pay provisions, which are set out in their collective agreement, would be devastating for these workers and their families,” said Graeme Johnston, BCFMWU Provincial President. “We are asking BC Ferries to respect the collective agreement while adapting to service reductions.” “We have verified BC Ferries` announcement to lay off hundreds of its employees, despite the 75% wage subsidies provided by the federal government to prevent such measures. We believe that the proposed dismissals would constitute a violation of Article 12 of the collective agreement and would expose BC Ferries to significant liability for the damages to be paid to its dismissed employees. These measures are not acceptable under current legislation,” Johnston said. We have a high degree of confidence in this view,” said John Rogers, Q.C., Victory Square Law Office, LLP, in supporting the union`s position. “We expected an adjustment of staff, given the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in the sense of `moving together`, we expected more from BC Ferries.
These workers and their families deserve better. Grame Johnston, Provincial President, BCFMWU BCFMWU, is committed to taking all necessary legal measures to protect the rights of its members and remains open to cooperation to make it easier for the staff concerned to adapt as much as possible. This was reaffirmed by Laird Cronk, President of the BC Federation of Labour, who said that “the BC Federation of Labour is in solidarity with the Ferry Workers and urges BC Ferries to negotiate with the union in good faith and respect the existing collective agreement”.