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June 26, 2012

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UVic workers serve 72-hour strike notice

VICTORIA—Two CUPE locals at the University of Victoria have served 72-hour strike notice.  CUPE 917 and 951 served notice at the BC Labour Relations Board Monday after the employer balked at continuing mediated talks.

The employer effectively stalled talks with all three CUPE locals at UVic Friday, saying progress was unlikely before September.  “We have been ready and willing to bargain throughout the summer to get a fair and reasonable collective agreement,” says CUPE 917 president Rob Park, “we were hoping to have finalized a fair negotiated settlement by September.”

CUPE local 951 president Doug Sprenger calls the strike notice the result of almost two years of frustration. “We have been at the table since October 2010 – we have met face to face with the employer 19 times and we have presented and discussed our issues at length. Now, after all that, UVic appears to be stalling and we have made no substantial progress on our most significant issues.”

The two sides have been discussing a four-year deal with no wage increases for 2010 and 2011 under the province’s “net zero” mandate.  Talks reconvened this month after the university finally received approval for its “cooperative gains mandate” savings plan from the provincial government.

While wages are an important factor after years of no increases, the CUPE bargaining teams say the main issues for their members are job security, inflation protection and improved benefits.

Members of CUPE 951, representing office, technical and childcare workers, voted 80 per cent in favour of strike action last month. CUPE 917’s outside workers voted 93 per cent in favour of strike action.  CUPE 4163, which represents about 1,500 teaching assistants, language instructors and sessionals has yet to take a strike vote.

“CUPE 917 and 951 will work on essential services during July and will have the assistance of mediator Mark Atkinson if we are unable to agree on essential staffing levels in the event of job action,” Sprenger explained. 

Almost as soon as the strike notice was announced yesterday, support came from another group negotiating at UVic.  “The Professional Employees Association supports the CUPE members in their fight for a fair and reasonable collective agreement," said PEA representative Melissa Moroz. “We will be asking our members to respect any picket lines they encounter at UVic,” said Moroz.

CUPE locals at the University of BC have also taken strike votes recently citing repeated delays and the employers dragging their feet.



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