Accessibility Shuttle workers unionize, join CUPE Local 116 after wage concerns

UBC Accessibility Shuttle workers have unionized.

After feeling that complaints of wage stagnation and cancelled shifts had not been heard, the workers voted to join CUPE Local 116, the union that also represents residence advisors, custodial workers and more at UBC.

The Accessibility Shuttle has been run by the Centre for Accessibility in partnership with Campus and Community Planning since 2018. It’s available to all students, staff, faculty, residents and visitors who have “temporary or permanent conditions that impact mobility.”

One driver and dispatcher for the UBC Accessibility Shuttle, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of future employment prospects, said the $16 wage has not changed since the launch of the program. UBC did not respond to request for comment on this concern.

“There’s a lack of response from management as to why that would be the case, and our frustration built with that over the last few months,” they said.

They said workers have talked and emailed managers, but were told there wasn’t enough money to pay for a wage increase. “It was quite a bit above minimum wage in 2018, but now minimum wage has basically caught up,” they said.

The worker said they reached out to CUPE Local 116 in early February.

Liz Locke, an organizer at Local 116, called the union a “natural fit,” due to it representing other drivers on campus.

Locke said there were no objections from the university. “UBC in the past has not put up many barriers in having a union,” Locke said. “They’re a fair employer.”

Matthew Ramsey, director of university affairs at UBC Media Relations, wrote in a brief statement that "UBC looks forward to working with CUPE 116 to negotiate the integration of the Accessibility Shuttle Drivers into the Collective Agreement."

In order to unionize, 45 per cent in the bargaining unit have to sign a card, triggering a vote. Fifty per cent of employees plus one need to vote to join the union for the vote to pass. Eight of ten employees participated in the vote, with all eight of them voting 'yes.'

"We are thrilled to welcome these workers into CUPE 116 and looking forward to establishing fair working conditions going forward.  Hats off to the organizing committee, which was focused, insightful and driven," Locke wrote in a statement after the results of the vote were confirmed.

Locke said Local 116 is preparing for collective bargaining, and they expect it to last through the summer, with the hope of working on the agreement in the fall.

The worker said the Accessibility Shuttle workers are excited to have another way to advocate for themselves.

“I think that all workers should be in a union and have a say in their workplace. All UBC workers should look into unionizing,” they said.