BCGEU strike

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Formerly published in The Other Press. Nov. 20 2012

Picketing for equal wages
By Elliot Chan, Contributor

On Wednesday November 14, a large group of support staff employees gathered outside of the empty Douglas College. After a resounding 77 per cent vote in favour for the strike earlier this month, BC Government and Service Employees’ Union members displayed their dissatisfaction on Royal Avenue and 8th Street with prominent yellow signs.

The union has been without a contract since June 30, 2010, and negotiations have been a slow process.

“We prefer to be at work,” said Kirk Pedersen, a web and social media specialist, “we don’t want to be out here.” A statement most picketers echoed on a clear autumn day. But many are hoping that the strike would call some attention to the issues.

“We want a livable wage,” said Tana Frie, a graphic designer, “there should be an equal wage within all universities and colleges.”

Currently Douglas College offers one of the lowest wages for service employees in the province. Although these workers are doing the same jobs as those from UBC and SFU, they are not receiving equal compensation. “Cost of living has increased,” said Bryan Hoff, a web designer, “[The government and college] need to catch up and help people financially.”

“Douglas College support staff deserve a fair and reasonable deal,” said BCGEU President Darryl Walker. “The monetary offer on the table at Douglas College is half what support staff at other post-secondary institutions such as UBC and SFU have settled for. That’s unfair and it’s not right.”

At the moment, the 304 support staff members at Douglas include registration staff, IT services, library assistants, bookstore clerks, student services, and financial aid advisers.

“It’ll probably happen again if it doesn’t get resolved,” said Pedersen, in regards to the strike’s longevity, “rotating strikes will continue from one district to the next.”

Sandra Mountain, the Bargaining Committee Chairperson for Douglas tries to view the future with optimism, “We are waiting. There is bound to be more activity.” But a fair solution still seems to be up in the air. “It is time to move on,” says Mountain, “There are other things that need to be focused on.”

The striking staff returned to work on Thursday. A renewed collective bargaining agreement remains to be negotiated.

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