UNBC workers in strike position

Cafeteria workers at UNBC have put themselves in a legal strike position.

Although these workers do their jobs at UNBC, they are employees of the Chartwells food services company.

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According to Octavian Cadabeschi, research analyst for the Unite Here Local 40 union, the staff at both the Agora Dining Hall and the in-house Tim Hortons outlet "have overwhelmingly voted in favour of authorizing a strike action on campus."

He did not specify how many workers were affected, nor what the voting percentage was in favour of a strike.

"The university's cafeteria workers are preparing to strike over persistent low wages and job insecurity," said Cadabeschi. "Many UNBC cafeteria workers earn wages below, or barely above, the poverty line. They earn significantly less than their counterparts at other top B.C. universities like UBC and SFU. Workers want living wages and a commitment from UNBC to retain all food service staff should the university decide to select another food service contractor."

The contract between Chartwells and UNBC expires at the end of the school year. The union's concern is cafeteria workers could lose their jobs should this happen without the university's administration helping their cause.

"We have always been there for UNBC when they needed us," said Jeannie Gilbert, a cook at the Agora Dining Hall.

"But where is UNBC when we need them? We are struggling with the rising cost of living and are worried about being fired at the end of this school year. Will UNBC stand by and do nothing?"

The Chartwells workers have been operating for a year on the terms of an expired labour agreement.

"I don't want to go on strike, but I will if I have to," said Melody Danchuk, a deli cashier. "I provide a home away from home for students who live on campus, and I love being able to do that. I hope that UNBC is able to resolve this issue before it turns into a drawn out labour dispute that has a major impact on campus life."

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