UNBC cafeteria workers vote to strike

Unite Here Local 40 bargaining committee members Melody Danchuk and Jeannie Gilbert, shop steward, lead a rally in McCaffray Hall calling on UNBC to help food service workers get better pay from their employer, Compass Group. Bill Phillips photo
Unite Here Local 40 bargaining committee members Melody Danchuk and Jeannie Gilbert, shop steward, lead a rally in McCaffray Hall in January calling on UNBC to help food service workers get better pay from their employer, Compass Group.

Cafeteria workers at UNBC’s Agora Dining Hall and Tim Hortons have voted in favour of strike.

The workers, members of UNITE HERE! Local 40, are long-term employees of Chartwells, the food service contractor for UNBC. The university’s cafeteria workers are preparing to strike for better wages and job security.

UNBC cafeteria workers earn significantly less than their counterparts at other top B.C. universities like UBC and SFU, says Octavian Cadabeschi, UNITE HERE Local 40, Research Analyst. Workers are seeking a living wage and a commitment from UNBC to retain all food service staff should the university decide to select another food service contractor. Chartwells’ agreement with UNBC expires at the end of the school year.

“We have always been there for UNBC when they needed us,” said Jeannie Gilbert, a cook at the Agora dining hall, in a union press release. “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?”

Workers have been without a contract for more than a year. During the 2017-18 school year, workers, students, faculty and community allies held several rallies and demonstrations on campus.

“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.”