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B.C. government workers’ union reaches deal with province

Striking B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union workers wave at passing vehicles at the liquor distribution branch on East Broadway in Vancouver on July 3, 2012.

Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail

The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union has reached a tentative agreement with the province.

"We knew this round of bargaining would be tough, and it was," BCGEU president Darryl Walker wrote in a statement issued Friday. "Our members gave us a mandate and we fought hard during nine months to achieve this deal. We struck four times and implemented an overtime ban to back our proposals.

"We're pleased we've been able to work productively with the government in recent days to reach this tentative agreement."

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The union's bargaining committee is recommending more than 25,000 union members accept the two-year agreement, which includes modest wage increases. The deal also scraps plans to privatize the province's Liquor Distribution Branch.

Mr. Walker said his members will see wage increase of four per cent over the two-year deal. The province has maintained that any wage increases need to be funded within the existing budget. Mr. Walker said his union has committed to find savings to offset its members' wage increases by reducing sick leaves and other benefits.

Mr. Walker said the cancellation of the government's plans to privatize the liquor distribution warehouse system was a "huge" victory for his members. Premier Christy Clark told reporters her government backed down on that aspect in order to get a deal. "We had to put a little water in our wine," she said.

Further details about the agreement are expected to be released after a ratification vote.

Finance Minister Michael de Jong wrote in a statement that the deal "recognizes the respect we have for the employees who deliver important public services."

More to come.

With a report from Justine Hunter in Victoria

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