Support workers at the University of Victoria are preparing for possible job action. Representatives of CUPE locals 917 and 951 say the lack of progress in contract talks is narrowing their options for a negotiated settlement and pushing them towards a strike. They add that any job action will take into consideration the impact on the public and UVic students.
“We’ve met with the employer more than 20 times since our contract expired in 2010,” says CUPE 951 president Doug Sprenger, “and we have yet to make any substantial progress towards a fair and reasonable collective agreement – our members are very frustrated.”
Sprenger points to the BC government’s “chronic underfunding of post secondary education”, Net Zero mandate in 2010-11 and Cooperative Gains mandate for 2012-13 as major impediments to not having settlement.
The union locals met with the university and mediator Mark Atkinson last week to discuss essential service levels. Once those levels are set and the mediator books out, the union can launch job action. The two sides have tentative dates in August with the BCLabourRelations Board to rule on any outstanding essential services issues.
Members of CUPE 951, representing office, technical and childcare workers, voted 80 per cent in favour of strike action in May. CUPE 917’s outside workers gave their bargaining committee a 93 per cent strike mandate. CUPE Local 4163, which represents about 1,500 teaching assistants, language and sessional instructors at UVic, plans to take a strike vote in the fall.
Bargaining has been hampered by the Cooperative Gains mandate, which forced university employers to submit and wait for provincial government approval of a “Savings Plan” before presenting monetary proposals at the table. Priorities for the union are inflation protection and job security.
“We’re discussing our options. The impact of budget cuts on our members, on students and on the very future of UVic make it imperative that we stand up now and fight for post secondary education,” said CUPE 917 president Rob Park.