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Expect more disruptions to Kootenay Lake Ferry System

The Kootenay Lake Ferry between Balfour and Kootenay Bay was operating during the weekend, but that didn't stop the community from protesting at the terminal in Kootenay Bay. The community has been disappointed with the service interruptions as well as the dredging of the West Arm of Kootenay Lake near the Balfour Ferry terminal. — Submitted photo

People living on the East Shore of Kootenay Lake woke up Monday to more disruption of the Kootenay Lake Ferry system.

DriveBC is reporting the Kootenay Lake Ferry would be out of service from 6:30 a.m. to 3:50 p.m. Monday, except for esstential service sailings at 6:30 a.m. and 8:10 a.m. from Balfour and 7: 10 a.m. and 9 a.m. from the Kootenay Bay terminal.

Priority is given to people with medial appointments, healthcare workers, school staff, students and parents transporting students.

Regular service is expected to return at 2:50 p.m. Monday.

The BCGEU workers have been without a contract since the spring. The union is hoping to come to an agreement on long-standing issues such as substandard wages, benefits and training that have created a staffing crisis for the ferry service.

During the weekend people caught in the middle of the service disruption staged a protest at the ferry terminal protesting the poor treatment by the BC Government as well as dredging happening in the West Arm of Kootenay Lake near the Balfour terminal.

Unionized workers with the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) went on strike have been trying to put pressure on employer Western Pacific Marine to negotiate a new collective agreement.

Communities caught in middle of ferry dispute feel 'abandoned' by BC Government

Ferry travelers on both sides of the Kootenay Lake Ferry system believe they are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the decisions currently being made by the BC Government, the operators of the ferry system Western Pacific Marine, and union employees that man the ferries, BC Government & Service Employees' Union (BCGEU).

Currently the ferry systems between Balfour and Kootenay Bay, on the east side of Kootenay Lake, has been reduced to morning and early afternoon sailings, with a few sporadic times later in the afternoon (see overtime ban story below).

Although today, DriveBC is reporting no sailing issues with Highway 3A, Kootenay Lake Ferry.

So the group is planning protests at both terminals in Balfour and Kootenay Bay to let the public know of their plight.

“The government of B.C has abandoned us,” said one of the organizers in an email to The Nelson Daily.

“There is a strike on right now and we have reduced and sometimes no service,” the email added.

“As you know there have been some controversial efforts being introduced to change how the Kootenay Lake Ferry system works.”

The group, which has two Facebook sites “Our Ferry Matters” and is planning a protest Saturday at 9 a.m.

“We are hoping to get some media response because this strike could go on forever,” the email said.  

Overtime ban means service interruption on Kootenay Lake Ferry

During the Labour Day holiday weekend, ferry traffic from Balfour to Kootenay Bay on the East Shore was interrupted when BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) went on strike to put pressure on employer Western Pacific Marine to negotiate a new collective agreement.

The strike halted traffic on Highway 3A for most of the weekend.

Now, ferry traffic is being interrupted again due to the union refusing to work overtime a ferry worker told The Nelson Daily Tuesday.

The worker said there is not enough senior staff to man the boats, forcing ferry to shutdown part way through the day after regular morning sailings.

Wednesday, DriveBC website said the Kootenay Lake Ferry would be out of service starting at 2:45 p.m. until 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

Last sailing from Balfour is 1:10 p.m. and the last sailing from Kootenay Bay Terminal is 2 p.m.

Essential Service sailings, priority given to healthcare workers persons with medical appointments, Kootenay Lake school staff, students and parents transporting students, leaves from Balfour at 4:30 p.m. and Kootenay Bay at 5:20 p.m.

The BCGEU workers have been without a contract since the spring. The union is hoping to come to an agreement on long-standing issues such as substandard wages, benefits and training that have created a staffing crisis for the ferry service.

Prior to the Labour Day holiday weekend strike, the Labour Board ruled the Kootenay Lake Ferry could be shutdown to routine travel but must be made available for emergencies and disaster response.

However, the Glade and Harrop Ferry systems, the other two crossings operated by Western Pacific Marine, must remain 100 per cent operational.

Alternate route is Highway 3, Kootenay Pass from Salmo to Creston.