Janitors’ union drive at Capilano University gives rise to campus-wide Living Wage Campaign

Joint worker-student delegation calling for a Living Wage and Benefits for all campus workers win meeting with University President

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA –– Capilano University President Paul Dangerfield was unavailable to accept a joint student-worker delegation Wednesday attempting to deliver a petition and open letter that calls on the university management to implement a formal Living Wage and Benefits policy for all direct and contracted workers on campus.

“The President was conveniently out of the province,” said Daniel Pringle, who is a founding member of the Student Worker Alliance Group (SWAG) and one of the rally organizers. “It appears that this campaign is having a real impact on the campus administration. As a university and public institution, we need to be fair and set higher standards that extend to everyone who works here,” added Pringle.

The joint delegation, backed by dozens of supporters, marched to the President’s office and were told he was out of the province but they refused to leave until an assistant scheduled a Monday morning meeting.

“Cleaners at Capilano University should not have to be working two and three jobs; people should be able to make enough to support themselves with one job, said Shaunti Bains who is a student and founding member of the Student Worker Alliance Group (SWAG). Paying low-waged workers more helps the entire community.”

Under the initiative ‘Justice for all Campus Workers,’ over 50 students, faculty and supporters gathered in solidarity with low-wage workers in front of the President’s office, including the Capilano University Faculty Association, MoveUp, the Hospital Employees’ Union, CUPW, the BCIT Faculty & Staff Association, Migrante, and the BC Federation of Labour.

The delegation wanted to give an open letter signed by over 50 stakeholders at Capilano University as well as a petition signed by over 1,200 students to the President directly, which they plan to do at Monday’s meeting.

The campaign was launched in September and coincided with the commencement of bargaining for the contracted cleaners at Capilano University.

“Best Service Pros keeps saying they are restricted because of their contract with the University,” said Delia Tenza who is a cleaner at Capilano University and member of the Bargaining Committee. “We are getting tired and we need the University to help us and stand up for good jobs.”

Delia Tanza speaks to crowd of supporters about the need for public support to win a Living Wage and Benefits for contracted cleaners across the province

Delia Tanza speaks to crowd of supporters about the need for public support to win a Living Wage and Benefits for contracted cleaners across the province

Earlier this year, the cleaners employed by Best Service Pros won their right to join a union with SEIU Local 2 after an anti-union boss fight and long legal battle at the BC Labour Board. Their ongoing struggle to negotiate a first contract has exposed the fundamental problem of how the tendering process is creating a race to the bottom at public post-secondary institutions.

“In the name of profits, university contracting-out policies have been instrumental in deteriorating working conditions for the most precarious workers on campus. As part of the university community, we call upon Capilano University to “make your mark” and adopt a Living Wage Policy that will make the University a special place for working and learning,” said Luis LM Aguiar, Professor of Sociology at UBC- Okanagan and research specialist on global unions, cleaners, and neo-liberal universities.

The cleaners’ fight to improve their working conditions has inspired a group of students to come together and form the Student Workers Alliance Group (SWAG), that is pushing forward a policy of a Living Wage on campus and other social justice issues affecting workers and students.

In October, the Capilano Student Union also produced their own statement on making Capilano University a Living Wage Campus stating that, “post-secondary institutions should be social leaders and work toward ensuring that workers on campus (whether employed directly or contracted-out) are paid a living wage, and that living wage and benefits policies should guide these institutions’ decisions for both their tender and non-tender contracts.”

SEIU Local 2 has been urging the university to be pro-active in working with service providers to move toward a Living Wage policy, but, to date, nothing concrete has been forthcoming.

SEIU Local 2 is also engaged with organizing Best Service Pros workers across the province.

SEIU’s Justice for Janitors is a movement of workers that has successfully organized to improve wages, benefits, and job security for over 7,000 janitors across Canada. SEIU’s goal is to organize all janitors in BC, so together workers can raise industry standards and reverse the race to the bottom.

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