Support workers at North Island College, represented by CUPE 3479, are celebrating the successful conclusion of collective bargaining, which required a series of adaptations to overcome challenges posed by COVID-19.

“Our members went into this bargaining with the goal of creating more equality between full-time staff and part-time and temporary workers, and the COVID-19 pandemic only furthered our resolve on this front,” said Michelle Waite, CUPE 3479 President. “We saw that temporary, auxiliary and casual staff across B.C. were some of the first to be affected by workforce reductions, and this only doubled our resolve to secure improvements for these precarious workers.”

Though bargaining concluded in early May, the ratification processes took several weeks to finalize as the union adapted its democratic structures to new platforms. Using online voting and a virtual membership meeting, workers from all parts of the college and different communities across the North Island could participate, despite having no access to the campus conferencing facilities normally used connect members across multiple campuses.

“Our members work across a service area of more than 80,000 square kilometers and found that these new platforms actually made a positive impact to participation and democratic decision-making,” said Waite. “Moving forward and looking past this current situation, we will consider how to incorporate online technologies as part of our ongoing work to consistently improve our union.”

In addition to improvements for temporary and part-time workers, the new agreement also introduced new leave provisions for those who experience domestic violence and their dependents, improved health benefits, and updated equality language throughout the agreement.

“The negotiations were respectful and productive from the outset, and we want to recognize the important role of the College in working collaboratively through the process,” said Waite.

CUPE 3479 represents support staff workers at North Island College in the communities of Port Hardy, Campbell River, Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Courtenay.