Hundreds of CUPE members joined with thousands of other union members and activists in Victoria, B.C., on March 6 to rally at the BC Legislature in support of free collective bargaining rights and in opposition to the B.C. Liberal government’s Bill 22.
CUPE BC President Barry O’Neill spoke to the audience, estimated at more than 10,000, and told them that CUPE members all across the province were organizing local community rallies to demonstrate their solidarity.
“If we don’t stop this government from tearing up our rights, there will be nothing left for our children, or for their children,” said O’Neill. “Christy Clark and Kevin Falcon need to understand that they can’t keep dividing people. Work with working people instead of against us.”
The mass rally was sparked by the BC Liberal government’s introduction of Bill 22 and refusal to agree to mediation between the BC Teachers’ Federation and the BC Public Schools Employers Association (BCPSEA).
The BCTF began three days of strike action on March 5, after it reached an agreement with the BCPSEA through the Labour Relations Board that no picket lines would go up around schools during the strike. The agreement, which the BCTF asked CUPE to honour, means CUPE members in the K-12 sector were expected to show up to work as scheduled.
“CUPE members in B.C. deserve special thanks today, especially those in the K-12 sector,” O’Neill said after the rally. “It’s been a very difficult issue for many members to come to terms with, and I thank them all from the bottom of my heart for helping us support our colleagues in the BCTF as they have asked us to.
“I also want to acknowledge the efforts of CUPE locals all across the province, in all sectors, who organized rallies and demonstrations with just a few days notice. Once again, we can all be proud of how our union responded.”
On Wednesday, O’Neill spoke to rallies in Langley and Vancouver.
CUPE members across the province took part in rallies and demonstrations against Bill 22 and in support of collective bargaining rights. CUPE locals in more than 20 communities held rallies on Tuesday and Wednesday.