COTR support staff to picket Tuesday, Wednesday

Classes have been cancelled at College of the Rockies today as B.C.'s college support workers take to the picket lines.

Classes have been cancelled at College of the Rockies today as B.C.’s college support workers take to the picket lines.

CUPE BC Colleges Co-ordinator Ian McLean confirmed Monday that the Local 2773 union would be participating in job action on Tuesday and Wednesday unless a settlement between the B.C. Post Secondary Employers Association, who bargain on behalf of the B.C. government, and CUPE is reached before then.

President and CEO of COTR Dr. Nick Rubidge said Monday morning that support employees would be participating in labour action, but said parts of the building would remain open so that students could work on homework.

“We anticipate having a labour disruption here,” he told the Townsman.

Management will be at the college from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the strike action to answer questions and deal with student issues. Picket lines are expected at Cranbrook’s main campus and at campuses in Creston, Golden and Fernie.

CUPE has been in a position to strike as of October 22, and had previously notified the college of their intention to take job action anytime after 9 p.m. on November 14 for 72 hours. The union represents 3,000 support workers who have been without a contract for two and a half years.

Local 2773 president Pam Catsirelis said on Thursday that the union had decided to allow the B.C. provincial government one more day for a response after serving their employers with 72-hour strike notice. The union had originally been slated to walk out on Monday.

On their information page for students, COTR said Local 2773 represents a variety of support service departments such as facilities, IT, finance, admissions, registration, financial aid, residence, library, bookstore and campus life.

The action would include all COTR campuses in Fernie, Golden, Invermere, Kimberley and Creston. Catsirelis said the strike would not include faculty, however she said they had indicated they would not cross the picket line.

Rubidge said the Gold Creek, Golden and Kimberley campuses will be closed during the job action, but the main facility in Cranbrook would remain open.

“We’re working hard at keeping the institution going as well as we can,” he said.

Students will be able to use the library and at least one computer lab, which will allow them to work on homework if they would like to use the faiclity during the job action.

“Students will hopefully be able to use the time to catch up,” Rubidge said.

Negotiations with CUPE and PSEA have been ongoing since the contract expired in 2010. Bargaining is not done locally in Cranbrook but instead through the CUPE union as a group and the PSEA.

The contract for CUPE Local 2773 expired on June 30, 2010 and local bargaining was completed in the spring of 2011 according to Catsirelis.

Joining COTR in the strike will be support staff at fellow B.C. institutions Camosun College, Vancouver Island University, College of New Caledonia, Vancouver Community College and North Island College.

Information on the job action for students is available at the COTR website, www.cotr.bc.ca/jobaction.