VIU support workers poised for Tuesday strike

NANAIMO: Strike action could shut down Vancouver Island University next week.

Strike action could shut down Vancouver Island University next week.

The university’s support staff will join workers at several other institutions in an all-campus walkout Tuesday and Wednesday (Nov. 20-21) if no progress is made at the bargaining table by then, said Ian McLean, B.C. colleges coordinator for the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“The institution, as far as we are concerned, would be closed,” he said. “We’re hopeful that government will be able to come up and at least make an offer to us. We don’t want to disrupt the students any more than the students want disruption.”

Nearly 300 CUPE workers at VIU, including food services, clerical and maintenance workers, have been without a contract for more than two years.

On Oct. 30, the university’s support staff voted 86 per cent in favour of job action and days later, the two parties agreed to bring in a private mediator to assist in the collective bargaining process.

If the VIU workers end up on strike, it would be the second time in recent years that classes are disrupted – a month-long faculty association strike shut down the university in the spring of 2011.

Dan Hurley, VIU spokesman, said the university will continue to work with the union to resolve the matter and he did not know by press time Friday what the impacts for students would be.

McLean said support staff at four other institutions – Camosun College, North Island College, College of the Rockies and College of New Caledonia – will also set up picket lines Tuesday if no progress is made over the weekend or Monday.

He said the stumbling block is the province, not employers, and the union believes that if VIU had the authority to sign off on an agreement with workers, it would be a done deal by now.

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