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UVic classes carry on amid strike

Sep 06 2012

Students and classes were largely unaffected during the first day of job action by support staff at the University of Victoria.

Plumbers, electricians, groundskeepers and janitorial staff walked off the job for more than two hours Wednesday morning. They set up a picket line outside the Saunders Building, which houses UVic facilities management.

"We chose this building today so that we would have no direct impact on students," said Rob Park, president of Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 917, which represents lifeguards, food-services workers, housekeepers and tradespeople.

Park said about 150 members of the local took part in the strike. They were joined by members of CUPE Locals 951 and 4163, the Professional Employees Association and the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union.

"From our perspective, it was a successful day," Park said.

The administrative offices in the Saunders Building remained open during the strike, but the janitorial services, ground maintenance, and waste and recycling services were unavailable.

"They said they were going to start small and, in fact, that seems to be what they did," said UVic spokesman Bruce Kilpatrick.

The strike did not appear to cause any major disruptions, but it may be several days before the effects are known, he said.

"Any job action has an impact on students," Kilpatrick said.

"What exactly that would have been today is really hard to tell, because this place is just so large and complex that it takes a few days to be able to find out the full implications of something."

The UVic students' society, which is remaining neutral during the dispute, was not aware of any major effects on students.

The unions, meanwhile, remained circumspect about their next move.

"Keeping the employer guessing is an important part of trying to get them back to the bargaining table," said Doug Sprenger, president of CUPE Local 951. "We've put out a formal request to return to the bargaining table, suggesting some dates. We're showing real seriousness at getting this back."

Local 951, which represents office, technical and childcare workers, also notified the university Wednesday that its members would be working to rule and refusing to work overtime. In a memo, the union advised its members to "cease donating your time to your department to get your job done. Stop coming in early and staying late and working through your breaks. If work backs up, inform your supervisor that there is a workload issue."

The unions and the university are trying to reach a four-year deal dating to 2010. The university's last offer, which has since expired, proposed no wage increase in the first two years, followed by a two per cent hike beginning July 1, 2012, and a 1.5 per cent increase on April 1, 2013.

The unions also want improved job security and severance provisions. lkines@timescolonist.com

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