Kootenay Lake Ferry service will be down Friday, October 4, due to a strike, as workers gather to highlight what they feel is unsustainable practices for the inland ferry services.

The strike is set to begin at 3:00 pm at the Kootenay Bay Ferry landing. According to organizers, the goal of the rally is to gather ferry users across the lake together and “show support for a safe, reliable, sustainable ferry service over the long term.”

Ferry workers will accommodate supporters by providing additional sailings to participants of the rally to get people home.

BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) says beginning on September 16, 2019, ferry workers began to restrict overtime to highlight understaffing issues, putting the service into what it feels is a crisis. Since then, up to 70% of regular sailing days have not run, and community members have spoken out about the impacts.

“The employer has spent years making profit their priority, refusing to invest in their workforce, and ultimately creating the crisis where there is a lack of local, qualified staff to operate the Kootenay Lake Ferry,” said Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU. “That means the ferry is heavily reliant on extreme amounts of overtime and is at high risk of regular cancellations.”

BCGEU says ferry workers have not had a contract since March of 2019 and negotiations stopped on June 5 then the employer, Western Pacific Marine would not consider the union’s proposal for industry-standard compensation.

Despite overtime restrictions, ferry crews continued to provide the three essential service crossings on weekdays, as ordered by the labour relations board.

Normally scheduled ferry rides should continue on Saturday.