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Staff union escalates UVic strike with picketing to target bookstore, coffee shop, housekeeping

Sep 16 2012

Picket lines will go up at the University of Victoria bookstore, Finnerty Express coffee shop and at the residence housekeeping offices on Monday as the Canadian Union of Public Employees steps up its strike action.

"We do understand that these actions will have an impact on students, yet we expect this impact to be minimal," said a statement posted Saturday on the CUPE website.

Non-union staff will be staffing the bookstore but students shouldn't expect the help that is normally available, said Bruce Kilpatrick, director of UVic communications.

"You might be able to make some purchases, but you won't be able to get the same kind of support or assistance," he said.

Residential housekeeping will also rely on nonunion staff redeployed from other departments, he said. The work they do includes cleaning common areas inside residences.

Bargaining is scheduled to resume Tuesday with three days of talks - one each for CUPE locals 917, 951 and 4163 - but the union said it was not optimistic that UVic would resolve non-cost issues such as inflation and job security.

Locals 917 and 951 shut down the Campus Security building, the Administrative Services building and the Saunders Annex for several days last week.

The pickets Monday outside the Campus Services building, where the bookstore and coffee shop are located, will not block access to the Resource Centre for Students with a Disability, CUPE said.

The Campus Security office, which had been behind pickets since Tuesday, will reopen so that B.C. Transit drivers can use the washrooms and students can access the lost and found and obtain parking passes.

Doug Sprenger, president of CUPE Local 951, said the union hopes to send the message to UVic that it is serious about the next bargaining session.

"We've had two years of really wasted talks where nothing was signed off, and we want to make sure they come to the table feeling pressure," he said.

There is building pressure within the union to shut down the entire campus, Sprenger said. "We're resisting that notion, saying we don't want to impact students."

Students have been "extremely supportive" of the job action, Sprenger said. "Of course, they're concerned and they come up and ask us questions.

They're reassured when they know we're not picketing classrooms and labs."

UVic previously offered a four-year deal retroactive to March 2010 with no increase in the first two years, followed by a 3.5 per cent increase over the remaining two years.

Local 917 represents electricians, plumbers, groundskeepers, security staff, food-services workers and housekeepers, while Local 951 represents office, technical and childcare workers.

The union is hosting a free concert on Monday night celebrating UVic's 50th anniversary, featuring Vancouver blues musician Jim Byrnes. Tickets are available from the University Centre box office or online at tickets.uvic.ca.

Cash donations for the UVic Students' Society food bank will be accepted at the door.

smcculloch@timescolonist.com