Employees of Finning Canada in British Columbia have officially gone on strike.

On Friday, the International Association of Machinists Local Lodge 692 served the company with a 72-hour strike notice. Then, 700 employees from across the province, including approximately 35 in Fort St. John, walked off the job as of 4 p.m., Wednesday after the union says it did not receive a reasonable offer.

Finning is the largest Caterpillar equipment dealer in the world and the striking employees represent mechanics, technicians and warehouse and parts personnel.

The union has been trying to negotiate a new contract. It says four of its main concerns surround wages, benefits, shifts and sub-contracting.

Employees have just finished a two-year contract in which there was a zero per cent increase over both years, says Tyler Davis, the local union representative. Davis says the wage increase the union is asking for would cover the cost of living increases over the past two years.

He also says some of the older employees were guaranteed a defined benefit plan, but are now being asked to switch over to a defined contribution plan instead.

Before the strike was officially announced, the company had proposed a four-year agreement with wage increases of 2.75 per cent in the first year, three per cent in the second and third years and four per cent in the fourth year. However, the union rejected the offer stating the cost of living has increased by 3.7 per cent over the last two years, alone.

– with files from Adam Reaburn