Recent ferry sailing cancellations and issues with staffing shortages are having a big impact on BC Ferries employees, according to the United Marine and Ferry Workers Union.
Provincial president of the union Eric Mcneely says that over 4,000 of his members who wear BC Ferries uniforms are in front-line positions, where they interact or have the potential to interact with the public.
He says that disruptions of scheduled sailings can have a compounding affect for those working in these positions.
“When there’s a sailing disruption, whether it’s mechanical, technological, or staffing related, my members are the ones who are engaging with the public on a face-to-face basis,” said Mcneely.
“With the challenges of recruiting and getting people into BC Ferries, what we’re seeing is less and less co-workers. That means that those same workers who have that face-to-face interaction with the public, are having potentially negative interactions more frequently.”
Along with the issues of recruiting and retaining employees, another challenge workers are facing is affordability. Mcneely adds that some long-term employees may not stay with the ferry corporation as inflation increases at a rate higher than wages.
“People are starting to look at other places where similar marine carriers have been adjusting their compensation rates to reflect increased costs for members,” said Mcneely.
“That’s not something we’ve seen from BC Ferries, but we are hopeful that they’ll make some changes in the coming months that will both positively impact the remaining members and stabilize the service.”
Mcneely acknowledges that BC Ferries has made some positive changes recently that will benefit them in the long run including changes to the leadership team and putting more focus on the people.
In terms of short-term solutions, that includes compensation for members and ensuring the employer supports the workers by addressing negative interactions in a way that avoids putting the employees at risk.