Government Licensed Professionals from the BC public service have voted to strike

From professional oversight to emergency response, professionals employed in the public service are critical to the work of the BC government.

June 22, 2022 (Victoria) – The Government Licensed Professionals (GLP) who work for the BC public service have voted 92% in favour of a strike. There are currently over 1,200 licensed professionals working across 11 ministries in vital roles as agrologists, engineers, foresters, geoscientists, pharmacists, psychologists, veterinarians and more. 

The Professional Employees Association (PEA), the union representing the GLP, entered bargaining with the Public Service Agency on April 11 but quickly reached impasse on May 16 when wage proposals were tabled that failed to address the rising cost of living.

“Our members are the scientific experts relied on to keep the province safe and they deserve wages that reflect the critical work they do,” said Melissa Moroz, Labour Relations Officer with the PEA. “This strike vote result shows that these professionals are willing to take action to back up their demands for reasonable compensation. They aren’t willing to take a pay cut.”

Government licensed professionals provide knowledgeable oversight of forestry, mining, and fossil fuels, but also BC’s infrastructure, forests, and farms. During the devastating wildfire and flooding of 2021, they were a critical part of the emergency response, rebuilding bridges and roads, forecasting flooding impacts, joining wildfire response teams, and helping farmers evacuate.

“The BC government already faces significant recruitment and retention issues and failing to provide fair wages that address inflation will make these issues more acute, which will impact the services British Columbians count on,” says Moroz. “With climate change and emergencies an ever-present reality, now is the time for the province to invest in public service professionals.”

The PEA will begin planning job action but remains committed to getting back to the table once the government provides a meaningful offer that recognizes the value of workers in the public service. Essential services are currently being negotiated.

Inadequate professional capacity in the BC government

In the early 2000s, the BC government sought to aggressively reduce the amount of regulation within government. They set a goal of a one-third reduction of regulation, and alongside that, drastically reduced the number of professionals within the public service. In the resource sector, BC government professionals were reduced by approximately 25%. Across the BC public service, the number of scientific professionals dropped significantly – from 1500 in 2001, to just over 1200 in 2020, despite the province’s growth over the same period from 4 million to 5.15 million residents. This corresponds to a change from 1 BC government professional for every 2,700 BC residents in 2000 to 1 for every 4,100 in 2020.

Issues with staffing levels within BC Ministries are exacerbated by ongoing challenges in recruiting and retaining qualified professionals in the BC public service. Key drivers of these challenges include:

  • Compensation – When compared with public service jobs at the municipal and federal level, as well as many other provinces and private sector jobs in BC, BC public service professionals are compensated less. PEA members frequently cite this as a reason for their departure from the BC public service.
     
  • Burnout – PEA members report high rates of concern with their ability to meet the mandate of their ministries. This leads to stress and burnout. This burnout is further exacerbated by the conditions faced by members involved in emergency response, as discussed below.
     
  • Position vacancies – Without compensation structures like career laddering in place to allow for career development and progression, PEA members are forced to leave the public service to further their career growth.

Public service professionals during an emergency

Floods, wildfires, and heat waves aren’t new to British Columbians – but the level of severity experienced across the province this past year was both unique and devastating. Communities already hard hit by the pandemic and the opioid crisis faced one severe weather emergency after another. The heat dome, which brought record-breaking temperatures to BC and caused nearly 600 deaths, created the conditions for the worst fire season in recent memory – driving thousands from their homes, destroying houses and businesses, and claiming the lives of loved ones. Communities like Lytton will never be the same.

Only a few weeks later, British Columbians experienced yet another weather emergency, with flooding prompting numerous evacuations, and damage to homes and businesses in communities across BC, including Abbotsford and Merritt. There was also the closure of the highways and rail lines that connect the City of Vancouver with the rest of the country, and a massive disruption to the supply chain heading into the holiday season.

It makes sense, then, that many British Columbians are asking questions. Why did this happen? Will it happen again? And, can we be more prepared in the future?

PEA members have been asking the same.

They are engineers, helping to quickly assess bridges, highways, and other infrastructure damaged by fires and floods while providing professional oversight for the performance of repairs. They’re geoscientists, who carry out flood forecasting and assess the risk of slope stability events that are exacerbated by fires, floods, and directly impact infrastructure and communities. They’re agrologists, helping farming communities during evacuations and to come back from the impacts of severe weather and other disasters. They’re foresters, who, with the help of firefighters and others, anticipate and respond to wildfires as they happen.

In this section

The PEA was formed in 1974, by a group of professionals working in the public sector. The story goes that the founders of the union mortgaged their houses to fund negotiations of the union’s first collective agreement. 

Now, the PEA is BC’s union for professionals. We represent a wide range of professionals including lawyers, foresters, engineers, agrologists, teachers, veterinarians, fundraisers, physiotherapists, pharmacists, psychologists program managers, librarians and more.

Our union is led by the PEA Executive. They represent members from across the chapters of the PEA and set the overall vision and direction for our union.

Resources for our members

Navigating a union can sometime be a challenging process. Under this section of the website you will find resources to help you navigate the PEA. In the members section you'll find expense claim reimbursements, information on the PEA's scholarship and bursary program and our grants and donations program.

Collective bargaining and job action resources explain the process of collective bargaining and what to do in the unlikely event of job action. 

Local reps can also find resources to help them complete their job more effectively. This includes ways to welcome new members, how to take notes in investigation disciplinary meetings and more.

The heart of our union

The PEA is made up of nine chapters, or groups of members who either work for the same employer or are in the same field of work. Each chapter has an elected executive tasked with running the affairs of the chapter. Each chapter is entitled to representation at the PEA Executive, the governing body of the union. 

Our members work for a range of employers: the Province of BC, the University of Victoria, St. Margaret's School, the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program, the Oil and Gas Commission, the Law Society of BC, Legal Services Society, the Okangan Regional Library and health authorities across BC.

Professionals need unions now more then ever

Since the 1970’s, when the PEA was formed, our mission has been to ensure our members can work in safe, productive environments and receive fair and reasonable wages and benefits for the valuable work they do. We help individuals and groups of professional workers to understand the challenges they face in their workplaces and some of the solutions available to them. 

We work with potential members to become certified as a union and achieve the wages, benefits and respect they deserve. 

The Professional | Volume 48 Issue 1

The Professional is the PEA's award-winning, quarterly magazine for members.

The Spring 2022 issue takes a deep dive into the work of GLP members and their work during provincial emergencies.

Read the latest issue

 

 

The PEA was formed in 1974 to represent licensed professionals in the BC Public Service. Since then the organization has grown to include a wide range of professionals from across BC. Find our more about our governance, staff and strategic direction.

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