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Picketing cancels classes at SFU, VCC campuses across Vancouver area

People make their way through the Surrey Central City complex, part of Simon Fraser University, in February 2010.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

Support staff at Simon Fraser University and Vancouver Community College escalated job action on Wednesday, forcing the rerouting of public transit and cancellation of numerous classes throughout Metro Vancouver.

The job action – by the Canadian Union of Public Employees locals 3338 and 4627, along with the Teaching Support Staff Union – was scheduled for 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. at SFU's Burnaby, Vancouver and Surrey campuses and both of VCC's Vancouver campuses.

The unionized workers – which include clerical and technical staff, teaching assistants and language instructors, among others – have been without a contract since 2010. They are seeking a similar settlement to those recently achieved by other B.C. universities, including the UBC, the University of Northern B.C. and Thompson Rivers University.

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Under four-year agreements announced last month, unionized workers at those schools will get nothing in the first two years and a 2 per cent raise in each of the last two years. Those increases will come from savings found within existing budgets, under the 2012 Co-operative Gains mandate.

Jo Hansen, chief steward for CUPE 4627, which represents the VCC workers, said the union is currently being offered 1 per cent in each of two years – and the offer will expire this month if not accepted. She called the offer a "strong-arm" tactic and said it is unfair that college staff is being asked to accept less than university staff.

"It's one Ministry of Advanced Education," she said. "I don't understand why they would treat us differently.

"We can't see this division of different levels because all we see is divide and conquer. They will take from what is the weakest group, and that will not be us."

Continued job action, to include support staff from other post-secondary institutions in B.C. – is expected in coming weeks.

Due to picketing, there will be three temporary bus stops serving SFU Burnaby Mountain on Wednesday, according to TransLink. They are:

  • University Drive at the entrance to the C lot
  • University Drive north to the Transportation Centre Bus Loop (outside the tunnel)
  • at the student residences
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Based in Vancouver, Andrea Woo is a general assignment reporter with a focus on multimedia journalism. More

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