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In November 2009, CUPE 116 at UBC filed an application with the Labour Relations Board in response to a growing trend for the university to contract out operations and maintenance of student housing and other services.

The union was not only concerned that student housing was being eroded as part of the university’s core services, but that new buildings with mixed academic and commercial purposes were no longer being viewed as university buildings or property, with maintenance services being contracted out.

A year after filing the application, UBC and CUPE 116 reached an agreement with the help of mediator Vince Ready.

CUPE 116 vice-president Dave Lance describes the agreement as “significant for CUPE members and students at UBC.” A key feature from the union’s perspective is an understanding that all current and future UBC student housing will be operated and maintained under the CUPE 116 collective agreement. “This is especially notable because UBC is planning for a huge expansion of student housing – up to 2,500 spaces in the coming years,” says Lance.

Also of note is that the mixed use Strangway Building (named after past UBC president David Strangway) will now be serviced completely by CUPE 116 members. This will mean the return of in-house landscape services and the return of the parking to UBC Parking, from Impark. The only pieces of the building that CUPE members will not service are the four commercial lease lots in the building.

We see this agreement as incredibly meaningful for the future of our membership and for the services we provide on campus. The university representatives negotiated with us in a transparent and collaborative manner, and committed to the principle that our members and our work are a key part of the future as UBC grows,” says Lance.

It appears that this agreement may set a pattern for discussions in other areas. Lance says that both parties would like to come to an agreement and understanding around additional work CUPE 116 members perform, such as infrastructure support/municipal-like-services and the maintenance of the university mixed-use buildings. The union and the university plan to continue these discussions in the new year.