Daily News Staff Reporter
After two years disputing a net zero contract while new management is hired and raises are handed out, Thompson Rivers University support staff are taking a strike vote, said CUPE 4879 president Lois Rugg.
Unionized staff is asking for a “fair and reasonable” wage increase to cover inflation and a boost in university parking fees but has no figure in mind, said Rugg.
It’s also fighting for job security after just hearing about a provincial plan launched in June called the Administrative Service Delivery Transformation Project, which is meant to amalgamate administrative duties among all of B.C.’s post-secondary institutions.
A walkout by TRU’s 600 support staff, who do nearly every job on campus except teach, could effectively shut down the school.
“If there was any sort of action in say, September, there could be a fairly heavy impact depending on what the action would be,” said Rugg.
TRU’s ballots will be handed in between Aug. 28 and Sept. 6.
Rugg said the union intends to stay in touch with the faculty association and student union with updates on what workers intend to do and “hopefully try to make the impact as minimal as possible.”
But they don’t expect the situation to go that far. Rugg said the employer hasn’t met with the union since last October, but she hopes that will change.
“If the strike vote goes well, the employer may just come back to the table and there may not be any kind of action.”
The university would not provide comment. Larry Phillips, TRU associate director in charge of labour relations, is on vacation, said university spokesperson Christopher Seguin.
TRU’s action follows similar votes at the University of British Columbia and University of Victoria earlier this month that showed 86 per cent of CUPE support staff is in favour of striking.
“People are tired,” said Rugg. “We’ve been bargaining for a long time. We’ve been taking the cuts and so forth.”
Locals are also concerned for their jobs.
CUPE’s post-secondary co-ordinated bargaining committee issued a bulletin this month stating the province is “fast-tracking” a plan to streamline administrative duties among all B.C. post-secondary institutions.
The union says it only found out about the plan a few weeks ago.
According to a provincial overview document on the Administrative Service Delivery Transformation Project dated July 16, the Ministry of Advanced Education and post-secondary institutions are collaborating to “assess opportunities for shared procurement and back office administrative services” to “achieve best value and fiscal plan targets.”
According to the provincial document, the plan’s initial phase was launched on June 25 and a “roadmap” for development is scheduled for completion on Sept. 14.
“The project will protect the quality of academic programs by challenging the post-secondary sector to reduce administrative costs and any other expenditures that are not related to direct academic program delivery,” states the document.
The wording has CUPE worried.
“In the past, ‘shared services’ and ‘shared procurement’ have meant privatization,” states the union bulletin.
A response from the province was not provided by press time.