Camosun College support staff are off the job Tuesday as part of a mass strike at five colleges across the province.
Louise Oetting, chief steward for CUPE local 2081 at Camosun confirmed that its 600 members would picket at the Interurban and Lansdowne campuses Tuesday and possibly Wednesday.
A vote on Nov. 10 saw 96 per cent of voting CUPE 2081 members favour a strike. At issue for the union is job security and equal pay, as compared to their counterparts in other unions.
“All we’re asking is to be treated the same as everybody else in the province that received the 0-0-2-2 (per cent deal), and they’ve come back and offered us less than that,” Oetting said.
The University of Victoria recently made peace with its CUPE unions with a 0-0-2-2 contract, which offers two per cent increases in 2013 and 2014. Oetting said they’ve been unofficially offered a 0-0-1-1 deal. “We do the same job as other post-secondary workers,” she said.
CUPE 2081 at Camosun represents some 600 maintenance, grounds, custodial, front line, clerical, secretarial, bookstore, library, instructional assistants, admin support, cafeteria, trades, sports and recreation staff.
Provincial CUPE organizers expect 3,000 members to walk off the job on today from Camosun, Vancouver Island University, College of New Caledonia, College of the Rockies and North Island College.
The Post Secondary Employers’ Association, the government’s bargaining agent, said in a statement to the News that it doesn’t discuss bargaining details, but said colleges have a tough job of finding cost savings.
“We are aware that some unions are frustrated with negotiations,” PSEA said. “This is a difficult round of bargaining and each sector is involved in separate negotiations and may reach different agreements.”
Camosun College expects picketing to continue Wednesday, but for college operations to return to normal Thursday.
“There certainly will be some disruption (of classes) but two days is manageable,” said Joan Yates, executive director of communications with Camosun.
Yates said classes will be open on strike days, but noted that faculty members have the right not to cross picket lines. Most student services will not be open Tuesday or Wednesday at Interurban or Landsdowne.
Camosun’s homepage at camosun.ca has a long list of cancelled classes for today.
— with files from Edward Hill