University of Victoria groundskeeper marks off spaces on Tuesday to be used by over-nighters at the 24 hour relay this weekend. Members from two CUPE locals at UVic have voted in favour of strike action

UVic unions vote to strike

No job action planned, as mediated meetings scheduled for next week

No job action planned, as mediated meetings scheduled for next week

Pickets and placards could soon go up at the University of Victoria, after two unions – representing some 1,500 employees – recently voted in favour of striking.

CUPE 951 members, who work office, technical, library and childcare jobs on campus, voted 80 per cent in favour of a strike on May 23.

“For them, 80 per cent is very high. Inside workers tend to be a little more cautious when it comes to strike votes,” said Loree Wilcox, CUPE national servicing rep.

In late April, CUPE 917 members voted 93 per cent in favour of a strike. That local represents tradespeople working at UVic, plus grounds workers, janitors, painters, housekeepers, lifeguards, utility drivers, food service staff, cooks auditorium staff and security officers.

Both unions have been without a contract since March 31, 2010.

Wilcox says the success of meetings held next week (June 5 through 7) with the employer will determine whether the unions will hit the picket line.

“The employer is returning next week with their approved cost-savings plan through the 2012 mandate, so we’re meeting with them and the mediator to see what that brings,” she said.

“It’s been a protracted round of bargaining, to say the least,” Wilcox added, saying that bargaining began in October 2010.

Kane Kilbey, UVic’s associate vice-president of human resources, wrote in a pair of bulletins posted online that he remains confident the bargaining process will be successful.

“It is not uncommon for a union to take a strike vote (and receive a strong strike mandate) during the collective bargaining process and we respect their right to do so,” he wrote. “With mediation still in progress and the required essential services yet to be designated, we do not believe that any job action is imminent …”

The cost-savings plan to be brought forward this week during negotiations will also cover the third CUPE union on campus: local 4163, which represents teaching assistants, ESL instructors and sessional instructors.

The TAs and ESL instructors have been without a contract since March 2010, but Wilcox says that union has “no plans at this time” to hold a strike vote.

“That’s simply because they operate on a more school-year-type calendar. And with school being done, they can wait for the employer to bring back the cost-savings plan for all three locals.”

Two-year agreements, expiring this year, have been reached with the Faculty Association, Professional Employees’ Association, and the sessional instructors with CUPE 4163.

Kilbey wrote that negotiations with those unions will begin imminently.


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