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Ferry disruptions continue for Kootenay Lake boats; union resumes Francois, Arrow, Adams Lake bargaining

More than 100 people came out in support of seeing an end to ferry disruptions during the ommunity-led Unity Sailing rally. — Submitted photo

On Tuesday, in a media release, the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) announced it is resuming bargaining with WaterBridge Ferries and Waterbridge Equipment, operators of Francois Lake, Arrow Lake and Adams Lake ferries.

The news is not as good for ferry workers on Kootenay Lake.

The union said the BCGEU has not received an invitation to resume bargaining from Western Pacific Marine (WPM), which operates the ferries on Kootenay Lake.

In a media release during the weekend, Western Pacific Marine said the company has repeatedly asked the union to consider mediation or arbitration in order to come to a reasonable agreement and resume full ferry service.

The company said, unfortunately, the union has refused to sit down with us since June 5.

In Tuesday’s union release, the BCGEU said as with Waterbridge, the union seeks to establish a collective agreement through bargaining and not arbitration or mediation. 

While the back and forth between Western Pacific Marine and BCGEU plays out, there was a Unity Sailing Rally held last Friday by a grassroots group calling themselves, Our Ferry Matters.

More than 100 people gathered from Kootenay Lake communities to support the community-led Unity Sailing rally.

Music and stories brought people together at both Kootenay Bay and Balfour ferry terminals, and on the ferry, with a strong desire to bring an end to the ongoing labour dispute and return to regular ferry service.

“We were very happy with the turnout and the support of so many community members,” said one of the organizers, Janet Wallace of Kootenay Lake Chamber of Commerce.

“The ongoing uncertainty in ferry scheduling is affecting small business, jobs, health care and most aspects of our daily lives,” added Janet who also represents the Artisans of Crawford Bay. “Today we took a stand for a safe, reliable and sustainable ferry service.” 

Our Ferry Matters group is calling for the three parties involved with the ferry service – B.C Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU), employer Western Pacific Marine, and the provincial government which is mandated to provide the service – to come together to ensure an agreement is reached.

The Kootenay Lake Ferry continues to run with a limited schedule. See DriveBC for more information.

“This gathering is just the start,” said Gauri Taylor of Yasodhara Ashram on the East Shore. The group plans to continue to write letters, talk to politicians, and foster solidarity around the issue.

“We know that unity is what creates change. Communities all around the lake are affected, and we want to work together to keep the momentum going.”

The OurFerryMatters.orgwebsite continues to host discussions and examples of individual hardships experienced because of ferry disruptions.