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BC Place employees vote for potential strike action as Grey Cup looms Add to ...

Didn’t like the service at renovated BC Place Stadium opening night? The Grey Cup could be even worse, after hundreds of the venue’s workers voted in favour of possible job action.

Local 1703 of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union has elected to give its bargaining committee a strike mandate after talks broke down with employer B.C. Pavilion Corporation last month. The union has 90 days to deliver a 72-hour strike notice, should it choose to do so.

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Revamped BC Place opened Friday after a $563-million post-Olympic facelift with the Canadian Football League’s B.C. Lions taking on the Edmonton Eskimos. Though fans marvelled at the venue’s new retractable roof, they also complained of excessive lineups at the will-call window outside the stadium and for concessions inside.

Now the BCGEU says up to 600 maintenance, security, hosting, first-aid and skilled-trade workers could walk off the job if the two sides don’t return to the bargaining table. BC Place plays host to the CFL’s championship game Nov. 27. Pavilion Corporation, or PAVCO, wouldn’t comment on how the facility would operate if hundreds of workers were holding picket signs.

Though some might suggest the impending Grey Cup gives the union leverage in talks, BCGEU president Darryl Walker said its goal is to negotiate an agreement as soon as possible and avoid a strike.

“The strike vote is just another tool to be used to get a collective agreement,” he said. “It’s our intention to use it to be able to get PAVCO back to the table and negotiate a collective agreement. The opportunities for a strike are not something we’re even thinking of right now.”

Eighty-nine per cent of local members voted in favour of possible strike action last week. Their collective agreement expired in May. (BC Place food workers are covered under a separate BCGEU collective agreement that expired in January. They are still without a contract, but talks are scheduled to resume in December.) Mr. Walker said the union’s primary concern is job security. He said PAVCO, a provincial Crown corporation, is attempting to reduce the number of full-time positions.

“The key piece is really long-term senior employees that are being asked now to give up their full-time positions,” he said. The union is also concerned about the contracting out of jobs.

In a written statement, PAVCO said it “remains confident that ongoing mediation and negotiations will result in an agreement, and our understanding is that the union is also committed to negotiating an agreement acceptable to both parties.”

PAVCO wrote that it expects talks to resume by mid-October. It declined to provide further comment.

Karen Tankard, a BCGEU spokeswoman, said what happens with BC Place in the event of a strike is up to PAVCO.

“If our workers elect to go out on strike at any point, they’re not going in the building to do their work. How management chooses to proceed from that point is really up to them,” she said.

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