College support workers at two B.C. colleges took strike votes Thursday and another union local is expected to follow suit on Tuesday, but that won't be happening at the College of New Caledonia.
The CNC board and the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 4951 bargaining team are scheduled to resume bargaining Nov. 7-9 and both sides are optimistic a new deal is imminent.
"I believe the deal that seems to be floating around the province, we're kind of hopeful it will be on the table for us too," said CUPE Local 4951 president Lily Bachand. "BCGEU got that, UNBC got it, and based on the past, we figure it's on the table. They have good faith and we have good faith, so we're hopeful and we're going to go in with that optimism."
The province settled labour disputes this week with university support workers at UBC and Thompson Rivers University, and a tentative agreement was reached Tuesday with UNBC support staff who belong to CUPE Local 3799. Each of those deals guarantee two per cent wage increases for 2012 and 2013.
"We are in ongoing talks with our CUPE local with dates scheduled for November and things are going well," said Randall Heidt, CNC's director of communications and development. "Because we're in active bargaining, there shouldn't be any strike votes. We hope to come to an agreement that is acceptable to all parties as soon as possible."
CUPE Local 4951 represents about 350 operational staff at CNC's main campus in Prince George and its five regional campuses in Mackenzie, Fort St. James, Vanderhoof, Quesnel and Burns Lake. That includes CNC custodians, cafeteria staff, day care workers, administrative assistants, project planners, admissions and continuing education staff, and employees of the bookstores and print rooms, who have been without a contract since June 2010.
The November bargaining sessions for CNC will involve direct participation of representatives of the provincial government, which holds the purse strings on any new settlement. Bachand said that hasn't happened since February when the provincial bargaining table was dissolved in favour of local bargaining.
"We can sit down and say yes or no based on how our membership votes, but the college has had its hands tied because they've had to go back to the provincial government, which makes it challenging," Bachand said.
This week, the CNC Faculty Association filed bargaining notice with the CNC board. Dates for those sessions have yet to be assigned.
College support staff at Vancouver Community College and College of the Rockies in Cranbrook took strike votes Thursday, while CUPE members at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo plan to do that on Tuesday.
The 345 UNBC support staff were presented details of their agreement on Thursday and Sewell said a ratification vote will be scheduled for early next week. CUPE 3379 represents UNBC's campus security staff, food service workers, tradespeople, parking attendants and student housing employees.
"I hope the members are going to be happy with it," said Sewell. "We're basically looking very similar to what's happening at other universities where they are settling. We're in a very similar situation with a modest wage increase and job security and things of that nature."
The provincial government has stated there is no new money available for public sector wage increases, but the co-operative gains mandate will provide public sector employers with the ability to negotiate modest wage hikes if savings can be found within existing budgets. The mandate applies to all public sector contracts which expired on or before Dec. 31, 2011.
Unlike the deal presented to UBC union members Sewell said there are no provisions in UNBC's proposed agreement to protect job security. UNBC staff are worried some jobs could be lost to contracting outside of the union and that other job-sharing measures are being discussed in the province's Administrative Service Delivery Transformation Project.
"I think that's going to be our next battle going forward," said Sewell. "UBC was able to maintain some language in their contract about contracting out and things like that but we were notable to do that. We have some language but I don't think it's enough to fight the Administrative Service Delivery Transformation Project."