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The British Columbia General Employees’ Union has set up picket lines at four BC Liquor Distribution Branch wholesale and distribution centres as it begins targeted job action.

The union, which represents about 33,000 public-service workers across B.C., issued strike notice Friday and assumed a legal strike position on Monday afternoon.

It says picket lines were to go up around 3:30 p.m., outside liquor distribution centres in Delta, Richmond and Kamloops, as well as the wholesale customer centre in Victoria.

Union president Stephanie Smith has said wage protection is the top concern of her members as inflation climbs dramatically.

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon issued a statement in response to the job action, assuring B.C. residents they can continue to count on essential services being available.

He says the province is committed to the collective bargaining process and to reaching an agreement that is fair, reasonable and supports the needs of workers, residents and the government’s fiscal plan so it has the resources it needs to keep delivering services.

The contract between the BCGEU and the Public Service Agency expired April 1 and there have been sporadic talks since April 6, but the union rejected an invitation from the agency for another meeting last week, saying it would “not be fruitful.”

Kahlon’s statement says the government’s shared recovery mandate offers “the most generous wage increase in the last 30 years” and seeks to help address the economic uncertainty everyone is experiencing with rising inflation and living costs.

The government’s proposal includes what Kahlon says is an “extra lift” to the lowest-paid workers, with a $2,500 upfront payment and average wage increases of nearly 11 per cent over the three-year term.

A statement from the union says retail liquor and cannabis stores are not part of the job action that began Monday, but the cannabis division of the Burnaby customer care centre is included, although a picket line won’t be set up there.

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