On Thursday October 4, carrying signs with slogans such as “2 years without contract” and “ WTF: Where’s the Funding?” the members of CUPE 3799 walked off the job at 1pm, picketing the entrance to the UNBC campus. The members of CUPE3799 were protesting the upcoming $20 million in mandated cuts to Post-secondary education in BC. As part of these cuts, universities around the province have to analyze procurement procedures to see if there can be any shared resources between universities, such as centralized call centres and accounting, in order to institute savings.
Caroline Sewell, president of CUPE 3799 talked about the reasons behind the strike, “We want to have stronger language about job security and not contracting out, and a reasonable and fair increase in wages.”
Throughout the day the UNBC Faculty president and executive directors were seen passing out donuts to strikers and showing their support. “We have a good will agreement with the management here at UNBC and the faculty. We are out protesting the provincial mandate and not the university,” added Sewell. As part of the goodwill agreement, essential services such as the power plant supervisors and security – who provide first aid services – stayed at work. The Northern Medical Program’s employees also stayed at work out of consideration for the tightly restricted course timeline of the med program.What is considered “a fair increase” to the members of CUPE3799? A wage increase akin to those granted to BCGU – a 1%, 1%, 1% increase over approximately 2 years.
“I’ve been with the university for14 years now; this is the third contract I’ve gone through. In the last 14 years, I think there’s been maybe a 4% raise in the 3 contracts, inclusive,” said CUPE 3799 member Dawn Gonzalez, the international undergraduate admissions officer, “There is a document out there indicating that the government and the university are looking into privatizing post-secondary education in BC. So that would mean the elimination of a lot of jobs at UNBC and across the province. I strongly feel that a good economy supports the middle class and the middle class supports the economy.” The stagnation of wages over the last 3 years has led to a decrease in the spending power of each individual by 5.8% due to inflation.
These proposed cuts may not seem to affect the average student, but they do. With the outsourcing of jobs there is less opportunities for students to work at the university in the call offices or as interns in the accounting and payroll office. Every facet of the university (from security to the Corner Store and student jobs at the library and IT centre) has the potential to be cut to institute university saving. Services like the Registrar’s Office, Cashier and Awards and Buursaries Office are all under CUPE3799. It remains to be seen how these services will be affected by the proposed cuts.