08/20/2012 01:07 EDT | Updated 10/20/2012 05:12 EDT

400 B.C. Government Workers Picket Interior Offices

An estimated 300 B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union members walked off the job on Monday as part of the union's efforts to pressure the government to resume stalled contract negotiations.

By 8 a.m. PT about 40 BCGEU members were picketing the Prince George office of the Ministry of Forests, as part of the union's rotating strike action, which also included walkouts in Dawson Creek, Burns Lake, Cranbrook and Nelson.

The strike is the third BCGEU job action this summer as the union tries to reach a new collective agreement with the government.

In July, BCGEU members picketed three Liquor Distribution Branch sites in Vancouver, Victoria and Kamloops. Earlier this August, the union took strike action at several ministry offices in Surrey, Kelowna, Campbell River and 100 Mile House.

The BCGEU's 25,000 members have been without a contract since March but talks with the provincial government to negotiate a new collective agreement stalled after the union rejected the two-year pay increase on offer.

The union says the government's offer of a 3.5 per cent pay raise over two years is not enough. Instead, the union is seeking a 3.5 per cent wage increase in the first year and a cost of living increase in the second.

Vice-president Paul Finch said members haven't had a raise for three years and they're asking for a wage increase in line with the inflation rate.

"Anyone that's had to go and buy groceries, or pay rent, or fill up your tank with gas knows how much prices have gone up, and it's far more than our wages, because they've just stagnated over the last three years."

Finch says if negotiations continue to stall, the union is prepared to escalate job action, but essential services such as fire protection will still be staffed during today's strike.

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