Unionized support staff at eight campuses of Northern Lights College in communities spread across northeastern B.C. have voted 90 per cent in favour of strike action to back up demands for a fair contract settlement.
Vancouver (06 Dec 2004) - Unionized support staff at eight campuses of Northern Lights College in communities spread across northeastern B.C. have voted 90 per cent in favour of strike action to back up demands for a fair contract settlement.
Talks between the college and 130 support staff represented by the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union broke down Nov. 26 because of the Campbell government’s rigid zero per cent wage increase mandate for public sector workers.
"The result should send a clear message to college administrators and especially to Victoria that a pay increase must be part of any settlement for college support staff," says BCGEU president George Heyman.
Heyman says his union has no immediate plans to issue strike notice. "Our next move will be to try to resume discussions to reach a deal," he says.
If job action is to occur, it will happen in the New Year. "That further underlines our members’ commitment when they’re prepared to walk a picket line in the dead of winter," Heyman says.
Like their counterparts at other B.C. colleges and institutes, Northern Lights support staff have had no pay boosts in five of the last seven years, and have seen their real incomes fall by more than seven per cent during that period after taking inflation into account.
The union is seeking wage increases of seven per cent in a new four-year agreement, along with access to benefit provisions already enjoyed by college instructors. About two-thirds of Northern Lights support staff earn $17.15 an hour or less.
So far this fall BCGEU support staff workers at Douglas College, BCIT, and Kwantlen University College have also approved job action to press government and their employers to make a fair wage increase offer.
College support staff operate audio/visual services, along with registration, counselling, academic advice and financial aid programs. They also assist in trades training and student labs, maintain buildings, and provide library, IT and computer services. Northern Lights campuses are located in Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, Fort Nelson, Chetwynd, Tumbler Ridge, Dease Lake, Atlin, and Hudson’s Hope.