The Needles ferry station. Photo: Wikipedia

The Needles ferry station. Photo: Wikipedia

Progress reported in Arrow Lakes ferry talks

Will settlement come with new offer from company?

Travellers got a reprieve on the Thanksgiving weekend from any job action on the Arrow Lakes ferries.

That was after the union representing workers on the ferries re-started talks with the employer the week before.

The two sides resumed bargaining Oct. 8 after the BC Government and Service Employees Union received an invitation from the ferries’ operators — WaterBridge Ferries and WaterBridge Equipment.

The negotiations took place in Kelowna.

On Oct. 11, the union issued a news release saying the two sides will continue talking.

“Proposals were presented to both committees and counterproposals were submitted to the employer,” said the release. “Progress was made and both sides made significant moves in effort to reach an agreement.

“We now await a response from Waterbridge to our latest proposal.”

It’s a sign of movement in at least one of the ongoing labour disputes on ferries in the West Kootenay.

BCGEU inland ferry workers on routes operated by WaterBridge Ferries, WaterBridge Equipment, and workers for Western Pacific Marine, which operates ferry services on Kootenay Lake and the Kootenay River, have been without a contract since March. Negotiations broke down June 5 when all three employers rejected the union’s proposal for industry standard compensation and investment in recruitment and succession planning.

The Labour Relations Board is expected to issue a ruling to set essential service levels for the Arrow Lake ferries in the event of job action.

While there’s movement in the Arrow Lakes dispute, the BCGEU says it has not received an invitation to resume bargaining from Western Pacific Marine, the company operating the Kootenay Lake, Glade and Harrop ferries.

After an essential services ruling was issued in that dispute, ferry service has been disrupted almost daily since the Labour Day weekend on Kootenay Lake.

All three employers maintain service contracts with the Ministry of Transportation.

The union says as operating costs have increased, the employers have failed to retain workers with industry standard compensation. They say they’re also fighting for better successorship and training to ensure safety requirements are met and local knowledge of the lakes is passed down to younger workers.