The College of New Caledonia's support staff workers are sticking with their plan to go ahead with a strike vote on Wednesday.
However, the union is hoping to avoid a walkout which could potentially close the college to students.
CUPE local 2951 union president Lily Bachand is pointing the blame at the provincial government and its refusal to put more money on the table. They union is seeking a four per cent wage increase spread over the next two years. Bachand said CUPE does not have an issue with CNC management or Georgina Johnson of the Post Secondary Employers Association (PSEC), who is negotiating on behalf of the province.
"We presented them an offer of settlement to conclude bargaining and the college and PSEC were unable to say yes to the offer," said Bachand. "They've done it for UNBC, they've done it for other [public] sectors, why do we have to walk down this road. It's less than cost of living."
Bachand said if her members vote in favour of a strike, the union won't file its 72-hour strike notice right away. But if negotiations continue to stall, she said picket lines could be the result.
"We will use it if we need to, just don't make us use it," said Bachand.
"It is November, coming to the end of semester. We don't want to create a job action to affect the students. I'm hoping the government will come to the table and the Labour Board and do mediation. We're not interested in a full-blown strike that will throw everybody out."
The union is confident if it comes down to a full withdrawal of services, the unionized instructors who make up CNC Faculty Association will not cross the picket lines and the college will be forced to close.
"There would be no classes, so the students would be out, but our intent is not to walk down the road, "said Bachand. "We would like the government to understand our best interests are with the students."
CUPE Local 4951 represents about 350 operational staff -- custodians, cafeteria staff, day care workers, administrative assistants, project planners, admissions and continuing education staff, bookstore and print shop employees -- at CNC's Prince George campus and regional campuses in Mackenzie, Fort St. James, Vanderhoof, Quesnel and Burns Lake. They have been working been without a contract since June 2010.
CNC will be the last college in B.C. to hold a strike vote. Camosun in Victoria will have its strike vote today. On Wednesday, Vancouver Community College closed the classrooms at its two campuses when 420 support staff walked off the job.
"It is the unions prerogative to take a strike vote with its members," said John Yap, Minister of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology, in an email to The Citizen.
"This is very much a part of the bargaining process, however, I am hopeful that the parties will return to the table and resume negotiations to reach an agreement."
No new negotiations have been scheduled.
We are hopeful that negotiations will lead to an agreement, said Randall Heidt, CNC's director of communications and development, who also responded by email. "CNC will discuss specific bargaining details only at the bargaining table and not in the media.