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Gov’t employees union strikes at BCIT Burnaby

Spirits high, despite the strike and rainy weather.

Spirits high, despite the strike and rainy weather. Photos courtesy of Blanca Brandon

Following a series of votes in favour of strike action at post-secondary institutions across the province, support staff at BCIT’s Burnaby campus picketed outside of four buildings on Tuesday, November 6. The demonstration forced BCIT to cancel day classes, while night courses were unaffected.

Larry Dea, head of BC Government Employees’ union (BCGEU) Local 703, said the focus is on sending a message to the provincial government.

“We’re striking here today [because BCIT] tells us they don’t have a mandate from the provincial government . . . to settle money issues,” Dea told The Link as he picketed outside building SW1.

“So, the purpose of the strike is to move [BCIT] to petition their group to petition the government to give them a mandate to settle with us.”

Richard Schaeffer, who leads the BCGEU’s bargaining committee, said support staff demands are not far from what institutions have been granted elsewhere in BC.

“The last offer we put on the table is a very similar offer to what was accepted at UBC and what was accepted in the master agreement in the BCGEU … and it has yet to be approved at BCIT,” said Schaeffer, who considers the support staff contract change requests to be reasonable.

Schaeffer said the BCGEU support staff is seeking to add a special needs day in case of family illness, job security, minor benefit improvements, and a wage increase that is the same or similar to what support staff at UBC received.

He also stated that BCIT support staff have been without a contract since June 30, 2010 and that after proposing a package similar to what UBC had settled for, it was rejected. In order to back their demands, BCIT support staff voted 89 per cent in support of the strike action on October 29.

According to the Canadian Union of Public Employees, UBC’s bargaining committee reached a tentative deal with the institution on November 6 to renew the collective agreement after more than two years of negotiations. Comments from BCIT did not deviate far from information provided in press releases.

Strikers picketing at BCIT, come rain or shine.

Strikers picketing at BCIT, come rain or shine.

“BCIT respects and values its faculty, staff and students and we are continuing to work with the collective bargaining representatives to ensure that we find a suitable resolution for all parties involved,” said a media relations representative when asked about BCIT’s response to the strike action.

Although it had been advertised that picketing would take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on November 6, support staff picketed from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. to avoid disrupting part-time students who take night classes at BCIT starting at 4:30pm.

First-year business management student Poonam Chahal had one of her classes cancelled due to picketing.

“I believe that the [support staff] do deserve what their demands are in limits,” said Chahal, “but striking is not fair to us students who are paying tuition for a proper education.”

Chahal told The Link she was not inconvenienced or bothered by the strike action but she believes this type of action is not fair for students and added that she hopes that no further class cancellations occur due to strike action.

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