British Columbia

UBC's maintenance worker union votes to strike

Unionized maintenance workers at the University of British Columbia's main Vancouver campus are threatening to walk off the job.

Union has to issue 72-hour notice before job action can begin

UBC says it hopes to resolve the issue before strike activity takes place. (Christer Waara/CBC)

A union at the University of British Columbia's Vancouver campus says the school could "grind to a halt" if it decides to carry out a strike over a contract dispute.

Members of the International Union of Operating Engineers, who work on the heating and cooling systems at the university's Point Grey campus, have voted unanimously in favour of job action.

Union Local 882 business manager Adrian David says UBC is demanding significant concessions of its members, who have been without a contract for three years.

Job action would affect university

"I don't want to bargain [in the media] but the main stumbling block is [the employer's desire] to remove language around schedules," David said.

He said members are also upset UBC won't provide retroactive pay for the delays in the dispute — which could be up to $2,500 per member.

The union must issue a 72-hour notice before job action can begin. David says the union is currently examining the best time to issue that notice, saying it could be Monday at the earliest.

As to what effect that could have on the start of the new semester, David said it could be considerable.

"Certainly the services that the unionized workers provide at the university would be adversely affected," he said.

"I would anticipate that the university would grind to a halt."

UBC responds

Leslie Dickson, the associate director of Public Affairs at the University of British Columbia says UBC hopes to continue the bargaining process and resolve negotiations before a strike takes place.

"It's important to note that a strike vote does not necessarily mean that there will be strike activity," she said, noting that the university has yet to receive a 72-hour notice.

If strike activity becomes a possibility, she says the university would seek an essential service designation from the Labour Relations Board of B.C. This means the union would be required to allow its members to perform certain services for the university in the event of a strike or lockout.

"The heating and cooling of buildings on an essential service. We would expect those services to continue for members of the UBC community."

Dickson says this is the only collective agreement outstanding at UBC.