Thursday, July 24, 2014
Last updated: 4 days ago

Service worker union on campus files 72-hour strike notice

File photo Andrew Bates/The Ubyssey

CUPE 116, the union local representing service workers on UBC campus, filed 72-hour strike notice Monday. The union will be able to begin job action by 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, October 4.

According to a telephone information line set up by the union local, CUPE 116 is planning job action on a “rotating and escalating basis.” The message tells union members that only those who are contacted by the union executives will be engaging in job action, and all other members should report to work as usual.

The union local represents Campus Security workers, food service employees, tradespeople, parking clerks and student housing service workers.

The local has been without a collective agreement with UBC for over two years. Negotiations between the university and the union have stalled, with the union expressing dissatisfaction with UBC’s most recent proposal for modest wage increases. The union names job security, benefit improvements and cost of living protection as areas where they are still dissatisfied with UBC’s offers.

“There hasn’t been enough movement, and we have to do something to get it going,” said CUPE 116 President Colleen Garbe. Garbe said the union is advocating for job protection and pensions for 116 members who are not currently receiving those benefits.

“We could be doing rotating action, we could be taking out our full membership, we could be picketing buildings, we could be shutting down Food Services, it’s a whole array of activities we could be doing,” said Garbe. She said that the union is still working out what form the job action will take on Thursday, but that there will “most likely” be rotating pickets around some UBC buildings.

COPE 378, the union representing AMS security staff, has also announced that they plan to take job action. COPE 378 members will be picketing around the SUB on Thursday, October 4 starting at 8:30 a.m.

COPE 378 Communications representative Jarrah Hodge said COPE 378 security workers and administrative staff, approximately 30 people, will take part in the picket. Hodge said they plan to picket the north entrance of the SUB and possibly the south entrance as well, and then head to the Goddess of Democracy statue for a rally at noon. A union memo indicates that this may be a one-day strike action.

Hodge said the union is taking job action to demonstrate their need for a wage increase and show support for CUPE 116.

“It’s partly that we’re dealing with our own issues and then also that we’re working together on the same day in solidarity with them,” said Hodge.

According to Hodge, the union is close to reaching an agreement with the AMS.

“We’re only a dollar apart on wages.… This is just one way of driving home that point,” said Hodge.

AMS President Matt Parson said that the AMS supports COPE 378′s decision to take job action in solidarity with CUPE 116.

“That’s just COPE 378’s response to support … CUPE 116 and we respect that decision and they’re fully in the right to do that.”

Parson said that business in the SUB should go on as usual during the job action.

“[We] hope for it not to have too large of an effect for the service to our students,” said Parson.

Other on-campus unions may be affected, depending on whether CUPE 116 sets up picket lines. Trish Everett, the communications chair of CUPE 2278, which represents teaching assistants at UBC, said, “There may be little to no effect to UBC TAs,” but said she hoped union members would not cross picket lines.

It’s also unlikely that the job action will affect transit service to campus. Gavin Davies, vice-president of Canadian Auto Workers Local 111, which represents transit workers, said bus service to UBC would likely stop at Blanca if CUPE 116 workers were to picket the bus loop. But he said the “chances of them picketing the bus loop are slim to none.”

“No workers should cross any picket lines, but a lot of picket lines take into consideration that the students are still going to school. So they’d probably just picket whatever building it is they work in.”

Other CUPE locals at Simon Fraser University, Thompson Rivers University and the University of Northern British Columbia filed strike notice on Monday as well, joining the already striking CUPE local at the University of Victoria.

—With files from Jonny Wakefield, Andrew Bates and Will McDonald