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October 1, 2012

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Job action looms at BC universities

VANCOUVER—Four more CUPE university locals have served 72-hour strike notice. Once in place, CUPE members at five universities in BC will be in a legal position to strike. 

Canadian Union of Public Employees locals at Simon Fraser University, the University of Northern BC, Thompson Rivers University and the University of British Columbia served notice today at the BC Labour Relations Board. The support and teaching assistant workers have been without a new contract since 2010. The main issues are job security, inflation protection and a fair and reasonable wage increase.

CUPE local 3338 at SFU, CUPE 116 at UBC, CUPE 4879 at TRU and CUPE 3799 at UNBC all filed notice. They join fellow CUPE workers at UVic, who already served notice. UVic CUPE workers have been taking part in escalating job actions since Sept. 4 that started with an overtime ban and have temporarily shut down several buildings on campus. 

News of the filings came at a regular meeting of the CUPE Universities Coordinated Bargaining Committee today in Vancouver.

UCBC co-chair Lois Rugg said the news was met with applause but not surprise. "We have been trying to bargain with these universities for more than two years - they have the money, they have the mandate, let’s get to the table and make a deal!" Rugg added that the expected job action reflects the growing level of frustration felt by the 12,000 CUPE workers at BC's five public university campuses. "First we were prevented from any wage increases under the BC Liberals' Zero Mandate in 2010 and 2011, then we waited for the universities to get their 'savings plans' in place, now we're being held back by the universities dragging their feet."

CUPE 3338 president Lynne Fowler said her executive decided on strike action "in the face of an employer who has consistently blocked all our attempts to bargain in good faith. We know the provincial government has reached a tentative settlement with the BCGEU - now it’s time for SFU to negotiate and settle a fair and reasonable contract with us."

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