Residents from the East and West Shore of Kootenay Lake are taking part in a “unity sailing” and rally at the ferry landings in Balfour and Kootenay Bay starting at 3 p.m. on Oct. 4.
Residents are rallying in support of ferry workers and their right to job action by raising awareness of the disruption the ferry service has impacted daily lives, businesses, access to health care, work, and school.
Ferry workers have been in a legal strike position since voting 100 per cent in favour of labour action to press their demands with Western Pacific Marine in August. Their last five-year contract ended in March.
“We are coming together to take a stand for a safe, reliable, sustainable ferry service over the long-term,” said Megan Rokeby-Thomas, owner of Ladybug Coffee and an organizer of the rally. “All our lake communities’ economies are linked, and any disruption to our ferry affects small business and employment on both sides of Kootenay Lake. Lives, jobs, and educations are at risk.”
The 80 members of the BC Government and Service Employees Union Local 2009 are pushing for better wages and working conditions, including addressing issues on training, retention, and recruitment of qualified marine professionals.
An overtime ban imposed by the union has been the cause of several ferry service interruptions in August and September.
Rally organizers are asking the provincial government to end the uncertainty that the labour relations are causing residents on both sides of the lake.
“We expect a big crowd,” said Gauri Taylor-Topp of Yasodhara Ashram. “This is about coming together in unity for the good of all our communities and our futures. This is not about terminal location debates or dredging. This is about advocating for a sustainable ferry service that we all need and want.”
Kootenay Lake Chamber of Commerce is standing behind the unity sailing and rally.
“The lake is all about connection,” said Janet Wallace Kootenay Lake Chamber of Commerce treasurer and owner of Barefoot Handweaving in Crawford Bay.