“Strike for fairness,” placards of members of Local 1858 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) read as they picketed VIU’s Nanaimo campus. Classes were cancelled at all four VIU campuses as a reaction of the job action.
Deborah Hopper, President of CUPE Local 1858, says that the support workers at VIU are asking for equal-wage increases as UBC, UVIC, UNBC, and TRU which have all been offered wage increases of zero percent, zero percent, two percent, two percent. “When our proposal was placed on the table, we didn’t ask for any more than [what] had already been given to other post-secondary institutions, but we feel that it’s only fair and equitable that our members should receive the same deals that support workers at other universities have been given,” Hopper says.
Hopper adds that the joint action between VIU and other CUPE institutions, such as Camosun College, and North Island College, was to “move the government off their complete lack of response to all of the proposals that had gone on for our collective agreement.” She continues, “Our collective agreements all ended two and a half years ago and we’ve been bargaining ever since but, despite the fact that proposals had been put on the table, the government was refusing to make any comment or to enter into discussion about them.”
Hopper says that the joint action between the other Vancouver Island institutions was designed to be “short and sweet” so that the strike would pose minimal impact to students.“Anytime you have labour action going on at a university, it’s going to impact students, and we’re well aware of that,” Hopper says. “At the same time, the joint action was purposely designed to be short and sweet so that the impact to students was kept confined, and so it would be…the instructors and the institution [that] would be able to address those impacts with students without jeopardizing their term.”
Kyle Langelier, a first year engineering student, says that he supports the joint action, “I think that it’s unfair that the CUPE workers here aren’t getting the same treatment as other B.C. universities.”
However, Langelier is upset that he missed a math exam which was cancelled due to the job action and says that he is unsure as to how the rest of the semester will unfold. “I don’t like being kept in the dark about the strike until the last minute,” he concludes.