ABBOTSFORD—Municipal workers in B.C.’s fifth largest city were in a jubilant mood on Friday afternoon, as CUPE National president Paul Moist and CUPE BC secretary-treasurer Mark Hancock brought strong messages of support to a boisterous noon-hour rally for striking members of CUPE 774.
With the strike in its twelfth day, some 200 CUPE members showed up at Abbotsford City Hall to join the picket line, carry the union flag and hear brief speeches by Moist, Hancock and CUPE 774 president Joe Rodrigue.
Rodrigue, the first to speak, reminded the crowd of some of the barriers his local has faced in trying to reach a collective agreement.
“I nearly fell off my chair when the employer turned off the Internet so I couldn’t communicate with my brothers and sisters,” he said. “It’s time to get back to the bargaining table.”
Hancock, acknowledging the presence of CUPE 339 president (and CUPE BC general vice president) Bev LaPointe in the crowd, reminded members of CUPE 774 that the Nelson local managed to overcome major obstacles—including a lack of experience with job action—to prevail after a ten-week strike in the summer of 2004.
“They held strong, got the collective agreement they wanted and didn’t give up any concessions,” he said. “You can do that, too.”
Moist, drawing on similar disputes across the country, encouraged members not to give up despite waiting 19 months for a contract after 51 meetings with the employer.
“We’ll last one day longer than the City of Abbotsford, and the price that they pay will be a fair contract,” he said to applause.
“We will not sell out new employees. There will be no two-tier wages in Abbotsford!”