Unionized support staff at seven Northwest Community College campuses in communities spread across northwestern B.C. have voted 85 per cent in favour of strike action to back up demands for a fair contract settlement, and served 72 hour strike notice this morning.
Talks between the college and 92 support staff represented by the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) broke down and the union served strike notice today after last-ditch attempts to reach an agreement proved futile. Job action could commence at Northwest College campuses as early as Monday morning, the BCGEU warned today.
"We're at an impasse," said George Heyman, BCGEU president. "The Campbell government's refusal to budge from its zero percent wage mandate has created a log jam at the bargaining table and left us with no other choice but to exercise our legal right to strike.
"These are predominantly women workers who are the backbone of our post-secondary system," he said. "They deserve to be treated fairly - especially when Victoria is sitting on close to a two billion dollar budget surplus."
Like their counterparts at other B.C. colleges and institutes, support staff at Northwestern Community College have had no raises in five of the last seven years, and a total pay boost of only 4.4 per cent in the other two.
The union is seeking a seven per cent pay boost in a new four year agreement, and parity measures to give support staff the same access to benefit provisions like out of town travel, medical and dental treatment that are already enjoyed by college instructors.
"When you take inflation into account, it means their real incomes have fallen by about seven per cent during that period," Heyman said. "These workers can make a legitimate case that a fair wage increase and equal benefits must be part of any settlement."
So far this fall BCGEU support staff workers at Douglas College, BCIT, and Kwantlen University College in the Lower Mainland; and Northern Lights College in Northeastern B.C. have also issued strike notices to press government and their employers for a fair settlement.
College support staff operate audio/visual services, along with registration, counselling, academic advice and financial aid programs. They also assist in trades training and student labs, maintain buildings, and provide library, IT and computer services. Northwest Community College campuses are located in Hazelton, Houston, Kitimat, Masset, Nass Valley, Prince Rupert, Queen Charlotte City, Smithers, Stewart, and Terrace.
For more information, contact Chris Bradshaw at 604-473-5454
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