No one ever wants to be on strike; least of all the support staff of a sister union who are unable to cross the picket line to work but instead are on the line supporting their fellow union members. This is the second time that I have been on strike since I started working at UNBC. The first time was about two years ago and our union CUPE, was on strike for approximately one half day. We were attempting to sign a four year contract of which two years had already past with a zero-zero mandate from the provincial government. After our three and a half hours without pay, our bargaining committee successfully negotiated a zero-zero-two-two percent wage increase for the next two years until we had to start negotiating a new contract. As strikes go, it wasn't too bad. We worked in the morning and then all of the support staff walked to the front of the lines to picket and demonstrate mostly as a last-ditch effort for negotiating. The bargaining committee was pulled off the line back to the negotiating table to finalize our meager raise (for less than a cost of living increase I might add) for which we were grateful.
UNBC's Faculty Association (and by default CUPE 3799) has been on strike since last Thursday and the propaganda machines from both sides have been working furiously to sway public opinion. As a member of a union, I am more inclined to support my union brothers and sisters but I am hesitant to bad mouth the senior administration at UNBC as I do believe they are stuck between a rock and a hard place. What I know for sure are three things: 1) Education in this province has been chronically underfunded at all levels for quite some time now 2) Declining enrollment and bad relations between faculty, staff and management at UNBC has been creating a toxic work environment at said University and 3) every single member of the senior administration makes at least twice, if not three times, as much money as I do.
There are rumblings of dissatisfaction that occur in nearly every workplace. There is almost always a divide between management and staff and it is my opinion that unnecessary secrets, rumours, uncertainty and job insecurity will erode any feelings of job satisfaction and self-worth that one may feel for their job. People as a whole, just want to do their job well, be treated (and compensated) fairly compared to their peers and, I think most of all, we all want to be acknowledged for a job well-done. For those of us on the picket line, we want to be respected for using the only bargaining tool that we have: withdrawing our services. To the young men who have been trying to run us over on the lines, I have this to say to you: I respect the fact that you don't care about us or what we are trying to do. I respect your right to yell nasty things at us out your car window. I even respect your right to have a $60,000 ridiculously stupid-looking pickup truck. Please respect my right to picket and peacefully protest in support of my peers and do try not to kill us with your big dumb truck. Thank you.
We all hope that this is resolved soon to the benefit of all parties. Maybe in the future we will elect a government who values education and believes in fair compensation for all who provide education at all levels. In the meantime, I will continue to walk the line and hope for the best in this situation.