About 100 UBC employees involved in the Vancouver campus heating and cooling systems voted unanimously yesterday to take strike action against the university. Since the employees have to give 72-hour notice, a strike could begin as soon as Monday.
“The employer has made unreasonable and unnecessary demands of our workers ... we are thinking about any next steps, up to and including serving 72-hour strike notice to the employer,” said Adrian David, the business manager of the IOUE 882 union representing the workers. He noted that the decision to strike is a strategic one.
The employees have not had contracts since 2014. They are asking for contracts to be created promptly and for those contracts to include a 5.5 per cent wage increase over a five-year collective agreement (a request that follows government guidelines), as well as retroactive pay for this time reflecting the increase, which would amount to $2,500 for each employee.
In return, UBC has asked for the workers to make scheduling concessions, including giving up the ability from the collective agreement to have rigid schedules that may not be changed at the whim of their employer.
“If we don’t accept their concession on [scheduling], [UBC said that] our members will not be getting their retroactive pay of $2,500, something that no other union at the university has had to deal with,” said David.
While UBC has said that the union refused to participate in mediation, David notes that no reasonable compromises were found through two mediation sessions. To each mediation proposal, he notes, the union workers voted vastly against.
“All the other unions support the actions that the IOUE 882 has taken. We’re going to try and give the staff, faculty, and students as much notice of any strike that happens [as possible]. We don’t want to do this, but we’re being forced by the employer,” said David
UBC Public Affairs representative Leslie Dickson notes that in the case of strike, the university will likely request “an essential service designation from the Labour Relations Board,” meaning the employees would be legally mandated to come to work.