Residence advisors will decide whether to unionize next week

UBC residence advisors are gearing up for a unionization vote on Tuesday.

RAs will be voting to join Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 116 on Tuesday. CUPE 116 represents many other UBC employees, including Campus Security and IT services.

An RA involved in the unionization efforts who requested anonymity in order to protect their job security said that RAs have been thinking about unionization for a few years, but COVID-19 has been the catalyst for renewed efforts.

They spoke of the lack of communication from the university surrounding fall residence closures and a lack of support for enforcing COVID-19 safety measures in residence.

“Supporting students and feeling safe in residence has become nearly impossible because housing has been very unwilling to provide that support if and when we asked [for] it.”

Student Housing confirmed multiple COVID-19 exposures in first-year residence in early March.

The RA said all communication with the university has been civil so far.

The university declined to comment ahead of the vote.

“As the certification vote is taking place next week it would be inappropriate for the university to comment at this time. We await the outcome of the vote and will proceed accordingly,” wrote Matthew Ramsey, director of university affairs at UBC Media Relations in a statement.

The Ubyssey did not receive a response from CUPE 116 by publishing.

Sixty-one per cent of RAs signed a union membership card indicating that they’re interested in proceeding to a unionization vote. BC Labour Relations Code requires 45 per cent in the proposed bargaining unit — in this case, UBC RAs — to sign.

The BC Labour Relations Board asked the university to provide an employee list to determine who is eligible to vote. The RA said there haven’t been any complications with that process. “Everyone we thought was going to be counted as an RA was counted as an RA [so far],” they said.

Every employee will be given an electronic ballot. A majority of votes cast pro-union is required for RAs to join CUPE 116.