WaterBridge Ferries and associated company Waterbridge Equipment have settled a new contract with their workers. File photo

Union, Nakusp company reach ferry deal

Union says it achieved its goals in the contract talks

The labour dispute between WaterBridge Ferries, Waterbridge Equipment and its unionized workers is over.

Members of the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union voted overwhelmingly to ratify collective agreements with the Nakusp-based companies, avoiding job action that would have disrupted service on the Arrow Lakes, Adams Lake and Francois Lake ferries.

They had been without a contract since the spring.

SEE: Waterbridge invites Arrow Lakes ferry workers’ union to talks

“Our members had one goal in this round of bargaining — to get contracts that ensured the long-term sustainability of these ferries by addressing recruitment and retention through wage parity with BC Ferries and a commitment to successorship training,” said Stephanie Smith, BCGEU president. “They achieved their goal and that’s a huge win for our members, for their employers and for everyone who relies on these ferries.”

That successorship training includes providing opportunities for members to take additional training for certification and qualifications for positions that require it.

“It can take up to eight to 10 years to have the appropriate certifications for some of the senior positions,” says Smith. “So this is a commitment to provide the opportunity for members who are currently working with WaterBridge to take that training so they can take those positions.”

The company commented on its Facebook page.

“We are pleased to announce the conclusion of the negotiations. The fear of strike or other job action is now removed,” it posted. “We wish to thank the local business owners and community influencers who came to Vancouver to support us during the labour board hearings.”

Smith didn’t have the details about the actual increase for Waterbridge workers under the settlement. The new agreement takes effect immediately and expires on March 31, 2022.

Smith thanked local communities for their understanding during the strike.

“We are incredibly grateful for the community support for our members,” she said. “We know how important these inland ferries are to these ferry-dependent communities and their support for our members to achieve these agreements has meant the world.”

Talks between the BCGEU and Western Pacific Marine – which operates the Kootenay Lake, Glade and Harrop routes – resumed last week, more than five months after the two sides reached an impasse in June.

“We hope in principle we can achieve the same results with Western Pacific Marine,” Smith told the Arrow Lakes News.

The union has been engaging in job action on the Kootenay Lake ferry run since the September Labour Day weekend. It said it would ease up on some of its action — including lifting overtime restrictions — as long as bargaining is ongoing.

SEE: Union: Kootenay Lake ferry talks to resume

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