About Public Sector Bargaining

What is the public sector?

The provincial public sector refers to industries that provide core public services. These include Crown corporations, health, community social services, K-12 public education, post-secondary institutions, and research universities.

There are roughly half a million people in BC who work across the provincial public sector.

Who oversees bargaining for the public sector?

In general terms, the provincial government is responsible for the public sector. The government uses a central agency known as the Public Sector Employers’ Council Secretariat (PSEC Secretariat) to coordinate union and non-union compensation across the public sector.

Why is there a specific time for public sector bargaining?

The government sets a mandate when they enter public sector bargaining with unionized employees. In that mandate, it identifies the term length of agreements as well as wage increases, among other elements.

For example, the 2019 mandate – formally known as the Sustainable Services Negotiating Mandate – applied to all public sector employers with unionized employees whose collective agreements expired on or after December 31, 2018.

Which MoveUP bargaining units are involved in public sector bargaining?

MoveUP has members at four public sector bargaining units: BC Hydro & PowerTech, BC Transit, Capilano University, and ICBC.

Doesn’t MoveUP negotiate directly with each employer?

Yes, we do. Our members at all our different bargaining units all have unique situations and diverse needs, even within the public sector.

In the case of public sector employers, they are guided by the mandate, but there are specific areas that aren’t necessarily covered by the broad terms of the mandate. These are the areas that our members are typically most interested in and where the bulk of our attention is focused. Those can include things such as time off and benefits, vacation scheduling, overtime, seniority, and others.

How does this public sector bargaining work with other unions doing the same thing at other workplaces, or even the workplace?

There are many other unions that have members who work in the public sector. Generally, when the time comes, one union will be the first out of the gate to reach a deal and new agreement. That deal generally becomes a benchmark that other unions negotiating with public sector employers typically follow.

Is there an advantage to being first out the gate?

There are differing opinions on whether, as a union, it is advantageous to go first or to follow. Certainly, any time that members can ratify a deal that they feel is fair is always a positive thing.

Does who is the provincial government have an impact on public sector bargaining?

Absolutely. You only need to look back at what public sector bargaining was like between 2001 to 2017 with the BC Liberals in government to recall how they tore up the teachers’ contract (a court battle the government eventually lost), drove down wages and benefits of thousands in the healthcare sector by privatizing their work, and froze wages across many sectors.

The incumbent BC NDP government, while not without their own challenges, have taken an approach that treats workers with the respect they are owed, ensuring that public services remain strong for the people who need to access them every day.

Are there any impacts on MoveUP members who are outside the public sector?

While there is no direct connection between the public sector mandate and what employers do in the private sector, the public sector mandate can often serve as a guide, particularly with larger employers. In some cases, certain collective agreements will have “me too” clauses built in. For example, if a collective agreement includes a percentage wage increase that comes in lower than the public sector mandate’s, the “me too” clause may specify in that scenario, those members are to have their wage increase match what the public sector mandate is.

I am interested in being part of my workplace’s next bargaining committee. How do I get involved?

When it gets close to bargaining time for your workplace, we will send an email bulletin to inform all members and to invite them to take a survey to let us know what their priorities are.

For some workplaces, depending on how many spots on the bargaining committee are available, we may also send out an expression of interest for being part of the bargaining committee. In some cases, executive board members and/or executive council members may receive priority.

For example, ICBC’s bargaining committee is comprised of a senior union representative from MoveUP’s staff, the MoveUP vice-president responsible for ICBC, and all the elected executive board members from that unit.