Terrace members of the Professional Employees Association rallied today to bring attention to upcoming contract negotiations with the provincial government.
Union officials say members have been working without a contract since March 31 and that bargaining to date has proved unsuccessful.
The union is looking for wage increases for its members and it also wants an eye put on what officials say is a declining number of professionals employed by the province.
There are about 2500 members of the union across B.C. and 21 members in Terrace — each is a professional employed by the province.
Registered psychologists, licensed veterinarians, professional engineers and professional foresters are some of the titles that fall under the designation of professional worker.
Workers haven’t seen wage increases in four out of the last eight years, said local PEA rep Gail Campbell, adding the PEA sees 3 per cent as a fair increase.
“We’re concerned about the diminishment of our members,” said Campbell. “We’ve lost 10 per cent of our members in the last two years and 26 per cent in the last decade.”
This can be attributed to a scale back in government workers and professional jobs increasingly being done by technicians, said Campbell.
The difference between a professional and a technician is the level of training, she said, adding a professional designation requires more training than a technical one, often differentiated by university degrees and college diplomas.
Local PEA member Kevin Derow works as a tenures forester for the forest ministry here and says he’s noticed a decline in professionals working in his office in Terrace.
He raised concerns about the government monitoring of forestry practices here, adding many forestry management practices were turned over to the private sector in 2005.
“There is still a need for government to monitor the private sector,” he said. “It’s increasingly difficult to do so without highly trained professionals.
“It’s more challenging for the public interest to be met effectively if we don’t have enough professional to be monitoring the private sector.”
Contract negotiations have been ongoing with 24 active days of bargaining to date, of which four of those were mediated sessions.
The union is set to sit again with the province at the bargaining table starting tomorrow.