VANCOUVER BC- After seven days of mediated bargaining, representatives of 12,000 university workers, including members of CUPE and TSSU, who work as support staff, teaching assistants, instructors, food and other campus services are expressing frustration with the bargaining process as they see time ticking away and significant issues have yet to be resolved.
“Members are beginning to wonder just how serious these employers are taking the current bargaining process,” says Connie Credico, CUPE’s universities’ co-ordinator and bargaining spokesperson for the entire group. “And it’s hard to tell who really has the authority to make decisions.”
The bargaining teams from UBC, CUPE locals 116, 2278 and 2950; SFU CUPE Local 3338 and TSSU , UVic CUPE locals 917, 951, 4163; Royal Roads (RRU) CUPE Local 3886; Thompson Rivers University (TRU) CUPE Local 900 and the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) CUPE Local 3799 have been in mediation at the B.C. Labour Relations Board for a week without reaching settlements.
Some locals have been in bargaining for well over a year and despite promises to the contrary from Finance Minister Carole Taylor and other government appointees, confusion reigns in bargaining and its threatening the settlement dates government has declared absolute.
University workers are calling on government to make good on its promise of restoring free collective bargaining. They want their employers to have the authority and responsibility to conclude fair and equitable agreements in a timely way.
Poverty is a real issue with many members of these bargaining units, says Credico. “It may come as a surprise but some members, including students and others who are raising families, live from pay cheque to pay cheque and must use food banks to supplement wages and often have to choose between rent and food.”
Credico emphasizes that university workers in this sector have had to be satisfied with a 2% total wage increase over the last seven years. “That’s unacceptable and things must improve in this round.”