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UBC president Martha Piper woke up to a raucous crowd of hundreds of CUPE members this morning, who arrived at her doorstep at 6:30 a.m. with alarm clocks, cow bells, and other noisemakers for ’Breakfast at Martha’s Mansion.’

The breakfast, which featured cake crumbs, gruel and “goose eggs,” was held on the eve of mediation talks with Local 2278, to protest the university’s insulting treatment of CUPE members in contract negotiations.

Members from all three CUPE bargaining units at the university – Local 2278 (teaching assistants) Local 116 (building trades and maintenance) and Local 2950 (support staff) – expressed their anger at UBC’s elitist attitudes and double standards.

Last month UBC gave president Piper a 63 per cent pay increase, but it is demanding the 4,500 CUPE members on campus accept wage freezes (which it describes as “goose eggs”), contracting out and second-class treatment.

“We’re here to issue a wake-up call to the university that we’re not going to accept wage freezes and benefit cuts,” said Adrienne Smith, a member of Local 2278. “There are thousands of CUPE members on this campus and we know the power of collective action,” she told the cheering crowd.

Local 2278 president Alex Grant told the protestors that the reason Piper got the whopping wage increase was to give her wage parity with the president of the University of Toronto.

“Well, U. of T. teaching assistants are paid $7 or $8 more an hour than us, so we want parity too,” he said.

Grant said the reason his membership voted 87% last month in support of taking job action is because they are angry at the university’s “stubborn refusal” to negotiate a fair contract.

“In addition to the wage freezes, we are facing tuition fee hikes that amount to a 16 per cent cut in our wages. And on top of that, the university wants to take away our health care benefits.”

Paul Cooke, president of Local 116, pledged his membership’s 100 per cent support to the teaching assistants. “If we have to hit the bricks to ensure you get your tuition fee rebate and decent raise that is exactly what we will do,” he said.

CUPE BC President Barry O’Neill promised participants at the “breakfast meeting” that the entire union will stand in solidarity with them to ensure they get justice from UBC.