The B.C. Ferries and Marine Workers Union has set sail in a new direction in terms of leadership.
A mail-in vote by union members throughout May resulted in a complete change of executive from president to secretary-treasurer.
Chris Abbott, 50, of Salt Spring Island, was elected president, replacing Richard Goode, who was seeking his second term as president.
Jeremy Bryant was elected first vice-president, Shawna Walsh second vice-president and Kevin Lee secretary-treasurer.
The executive’s three-year term began Friday and Abbot said the vote showed membership was unhappy with previous board and looking for a change in direction.
Abbott received 978 votes to Goode’s 480, and he said while a two-to-one win is good, the low voter turnout was disappointing considering the union has 3,800 members around the province.
“That says to me we need to do more for our members and get out and speak to them a lot more than has been happening,” he said. “We have to reconnect and reengage them, especially in respect to young workers.”
A 22-year member with the union, Abbott worked as a deck hand on the Howe Sound Queen on Salt Spring Island. He was first vice-president of the union in 2002.
He describes the current relationship between the union and B.C. Ferris as concerning.
“Our members are demoralized with the corporation’s for-profit mandate and the exclusion process where some senior officer positions have been made managerial,” he said. “That was unnecessary, and those who chose not to become managers feel they haven’t been treated with the respect they deserve.”
Abbot has met Michael Corrigan, B.C. Ferries CEO, on different occasions prior to the election, and anticipates the two will have a civil, professional relationship.
“There will be challenges on the horizon and it takes two parties to negotiate. It can’t be a one-way street,” he said. “Saying that, you can’t promise a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that you can’t obtain.
“You have to be realistic and listen to the members and try to achieve what they’re looking for you to achieve.”
For more information on the B.C. Ferries and Marine Workers Union, please go to www.bcfmwu.com.