Having already served 72-hour strike notice on Monday, unionized support staff at UNBC plan to walk off their jobs and set up a picket line today at the entrance to the university.
CUPE Local 3799, which represents UNBC's campus security staff, food service workers, tradespeople, parking attendants and student housing employees, have been working without a contract since June 2010.
"We will be taking job action [Wednesday] from 1-4:30 p.m., the normal end-of-day for support staff at the university," said CUPE Local 3799 president Caroline Sewell.
"We're hoping to get more information out, I don't think the public is aware what we're actually looking for. We're looking for job security and a fair wage increase, because we've basically gone with zeroes for the last three years.
"We just want to get up to the cost of living allowance. We don't know if we'll be able to achieve that at the bargaining table, but with taking zeroes for the last three years it in effect puts the average worker down three per cent in earning power compared over two years ago. Most people are under the impression people working in the public sector are rolling in the cash but that's really not the case."
The dispute involves 340 full-time and part-time support staff members. The two sides met for two days of bargaining last week. Talks broke off Friday afternoon.
The Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre, UNBC child care centre and cafeteria are expected to remain open during the strike action. Prince George transit buses are not expected to cross the picket line and bus drivers will instead drop off and pick up passengers at the main entrance to the campus off University Way.
"Faculty members and teaching staff are not members of CUPE and, as a result, the university expects that classes and labs will be delivered as scheduled," said Alyson Gourley-Cramer, UNBC's manager of media relations and communications. "Nevertheless, students and visitors should expect reduced levels of service in multiple administrative departments."
Sewell said the union is on good terms with UNBC management and the bargaining team discussed with the human resources office what would be involved in today's job action.
"We don't believe this is a management issue, we believe this is a provincial government issue," said Sewell. "I'm hoping we'll get back to the bargaining table quickly. At Friday's meeting we gave management our final offer proposal and we're waiting for them to counter that.
"We're looking at a four-year term and we already know we're taking zeroes in 2010 and 2011, but we're looking for an increase in 2012 and 2013. We're not shooting for the moon, we're trying to be very reasonable. We're hoping to get a contract in the next few weeks."
As for job security, the union is worried jobs will be farmed out to other universities in the province, as proposed in the province's academic service delivery transformation project.
"We've seen the documentation and it's similar to what the city is doing with its core services review," said Sewell. "The documentation is showing job-sharing services between all universities to share costs overall and that means we will be taking jobs out of Prince George and moving them to Kamloops, Kelowna or Vancouver."