CUPE staff at BC’s colleges are readying for strike action. Tentative plans call for an all-campus walkout starting on Tuesday, November 20. Organizers say they are leaving the door open for the BC government to stop stalling and settle with the 3,000 CUPE support workers who have been without a contract for 2 1/2 years .
The CUPE locals have taken strike votes and are serving 72-hour strike notices this week. Camosun, Vancouver Island University, College of New Caledonia, College of the Rockies and North Island College all expect to all be in a legal position to strike by the start of next week. Vancouver Community College has been carrying out job actions for more than two weeks and is planning another all-campus walkout on Monday.
At issue for the colleges is the BC government’s refusal to sign-off on new collective agreements. The last contract expired in 2010. All the CUPE college locals say they have a good relationship with their employer and that the stumbling block is the provincial government’s Public Sector Employers’ Council (PSEC) and Ministry of Advanced Education.
“We have been working closely with our employers to do everything in our power to settle this round of bargaining,” says CUPE’s BC Colleges Coordinator Ian McLean. “We have met and worked with those employers over the past two years and proposed settlements in line with all the other recent public sector contracts. We have worked with the assistance of a mediator to try to streamline the process. To date all of these efforts have failed because we are told by our employers that they don’t have a mandate to bargain from the government.”
“The only reason we don’t have a deal is because the BC Liberals have dropped the ball. We remain committed to negotiating a fair and reasonable contract, and our door is always open, but this government’s interference in collective bargaining has pushed us to the point where our only alternative is job action,” says McLean.
Other recent public sector wage settlements have been for four-year no-concessions deals with 0-0-2-2 per cent wage increases.