Union leaders from across B.C. gathered at Vancouver Island University Wednesday in a show of support for striking faculty members.
About 300 people, including VIU Faculty Association members, students and representatives from faculty associations and other unions from across the Island and province, showed up at the rally in the Navy League of Canada parking lot on Fifth Street.
“You are not alone on this picket line,” said Cindy Oliver, president of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators. “You have support from across this province and across this country.”
Barry O’Neill, president of CUPE B.C., told striking professors they can and will make a difference by their stand.
Jim Sinclair, B.C. Federation of Labour president, thanked VIU workers who belong to other unions for respecting the picket lines at the institution.
Barbara Byers, executive vice-president of the Canadian Labour Congress, flew from Ottawa to address the crowd.
“You have the solidarity of the labour movement from coast to coast to coast,” she said, adding that others will be inspired by the faculty association’s courage and will to succeed.
Dan McDonald, president of the VIU faculty association, said it was a tough decision for members to go on strike and he’s grateful for the show of support from other unions.
“We’re trying to build upon the solidarity shown today to get us a good agreement,” he said.
VIU campuses have been fully shut down since March 10 when the strike began, although the university has applied to the Labour Relations Board to have picket lines moved at the Nanaimo campus so the lower buildings could be reopened for trades students.
The LRB had not released its decision by press time Wednesday.
The Langara Faculty Association also held a press conference Tuesday at which the union expressed solidarity with VIUFA. It served Langara College with a strike notice earlier this year, but except for a 2.5-hour walkout Friday, members remain in classrooms.
Meanwhile, VIU administrators and the faculty association were also back at the bargaining table Wednesday.
McDonald said that both parties agreed Monday not to share details of proposals and counter-proposals with the public and to focus on bargaining at the table rather than in the media.
McDonald said the two sides exchanged proposals on Monday and Wednesday during negotiations.
“The mediator didn’t book out, so that’s a good sign,” he said.