Strike risk cools for some as several B.C. university unions reach agreements


VANCOUVER (CUP) — Picketing and strikes are still under way for union locals at B.C. universities, but several agreements have been reached.

Labour action began last month at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, Thompson Rivers University, the University of Victoria, the University of Northern B.C. and Royal Roads University. Some workers have been without an agreement for two years.

At UVic, the Professional Employees Association (PEA) union has reached a tentative two-year agreement that will see a wage increase of two per cent, retroactive to July 1, 2012, and a further two per cent on July 1, 2013. Ballots have been sent out for union members to accept or reject the deal; the ballots will be counted on Nov. 15.

CUPE 4879, which represents support workers at Thompson Rivers University (TRU), also reached a tentative four-year agreement on Oct. 23, with no wage increases for the first two years and two per cent increases in each of the final two years of the agreement.

Late on Oct. 23, CUPE 3799, representing support staff at the University of Northern British Columbia, reached a tentative agreement nearly identical to the one at TRU.

And at UBC, members of CUPE 2950, representing clerical, library and hospital staff, reached an agreement this week as well, according to CUPE bargaining co-chair Lois Rugg. Members have agreed to no wage increases from 2011–2012 and a two per cent increase in both 2013 and 2014.

As of Oct. 21, CUPE 116, representing security and service workers at UBC, reached a tentative agreement with the university. CUPE 116 has returned to work. Details on that agreement have not yet been released. Teaching assistants at UBC (CUPE 2278), however, began job action at 3 p.m. on Oct. 29.

At Royal Roads, CUPE 3886 (representing gardeners, trades people, maintenance and custodial workers) reached a tentative agreement with the university on Oct. 29. If they ratify the agreement, the workers will see two per cent wage increases in the latter two years of the four-year deal, as well as stronger anti-harassment and anti-discrimination measures.

Strikes are ramping up at SFU to include the downtown campus. Negotiations with unions at SFU are on hold.

“SFU has refused to come to the bargaining table and strike action will heat up at their various locations,” said Rugg in an email.

Three other unions at UVic are still negotiating with the university, including teaching assistants of CUPE 4163, the support staff of 917 and the office, technical and childcare staff of 951, according to UVic media relations manager Denise Helm.

Helm said no further information is available due to a media blackout.

In addition to the strikes at various universities, the Vancouver Community College Employees Union (CUPE 4627) put the college behind picket lines on Oct. 30, saying the issue was the government, not the employer.

Christy Clark announced on Oct. 17 she would be launching consultations to improve the bargaining process for primary and secondary education teachers. The Ministry of Advanced Education was asked if they would be reviewing their union bargaining process as well considering the high number of negotiations going on, but did not respond before press time.