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Capilano University workers react to disappointing government minimum wage increase as they gear up for strike votes this week

Cleaners at Capilano University and campus allies are calling for a Living Wage and Benefits for all workers on campus.

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA –– Capilano University cleaners say $15 an hour is needed right now, not in 2021, as they prepare to take strike votes this week.

“For months, we have been asking for a Living Wage in our negotiations with Best Service Pros. Even $15 an hour is not considered a Living Wage in Vancouver. With $15 right now, we would be in a better position to get closer to a Living Wage,” said Analou Espina, one of the members of the SEIU Local 2 Bargaining Committee.

On Thursday, Premier John Horgan announced a phased wage increase schedule that would bring the minimum wage up to $12.65 an hour this June and would reach $15.20 in 2021.

The cleaners at Capilano University have been in first contract negotiations with their Employer, Best Service Pros, since September and have currently reached a deadlock in mediations.

The cleaners’ union drive with SEIU Local 2 and commencement of bargaining has given rise to a larger campus-wide campaign calling for a Living Wage and Benefits for all direct and contracted workers on campus.

Delia Tanza speaks to crowd of supporters on November 29 solidarity rally 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 on November 29 solidarity rally about the need for public support to win a Living Wage and Benefits for contracted cleaners on campus.

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Toronto Holiday Meeting & Year End Celebration

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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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Capilano University student group organize panel to highlight fight for Living Wages and Benefits

Nov. 22. Student Worker Alliance Group.

Nov. 22. Student Worker Alliance Group.

The Student Worker Alliance Group are pushing university stakeholders to stand in solidarity with all workers on campus

Dozens of students and supporters gathered Wednesday November 22 in the Capilano University Student Union Lounge at a panel organized by the newly formed Student Worker Alliance Group (SWAG) to discuss what a Living Wage would mean for low-wage workers on campus.

The panel, called “A Dialogue on Justice,’ included Tom Walker, Labour Studies Professor at Simon Fraser University; Kimball Cariou, Editor of the People’s Voice newspaper; Deanna Ogle from the Living Wage for Families Campaign; and Máire Kirwan, Director of Staff Membership at the Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU).

Delia Tanza, Analou Espina, and Stephan Scott, who are cleaners at Capilano University and members of the Bargaining Committee, were also able to attend the panel and share their personal stories and struggles that led them to form a union with SEIU Local 2 earlier this year.

Delia Tanza reiterated the need for public support on campus for the cleaners to win a fair first contract and explained to the audience; “I want a union, and my coworkers want it, because we want safety and benefits…  We work for very little salary, just one job is not enough for us… I am a single mom and work 3 jobs.  I work in the morning, I work here [Capilano University] at night, and I work Saturday and Sunday…  So, hopefully people here at the University can help us.”

The energy in the room was high as the crowd and panel members discussed what a Living Wage means for workers and their families; in particular, for contracted service workers who have been put in more precarious situations due to constant contract flipping and a competitive bidding model that has created a race to the bottom.

Kirwan elaborated on what HEU contracted workers said a Living Wage would mean for their lives and families. “They said that they’d be able to go home at night to say good night to their kids, or they wouldn’t have to survive on the foodbank, or they would be able to do something fun with their kids because they would have a little extra money. These are things that many of us take for granted.”

Deanna Ogle discussed examples of some successful Living Wage campaigns that have forced Employers to provide Living Wages to all direct and contracted workers, but still, there is a lot of work to be done.

A Living Wage in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland is $20.62 an hour yet as Ogle explained “almost 1/3 of families in the Lower Mainland are not earning a Living Wage.”

The overwhelming stance was that governments and public institutions should be the ones leading the way in setting higher standards.

The panel also discussed some of the challenges in winning a Living Wage and the need to keep on organizing workers and fighting for improvements.

“You can’t take anything for granted. We all have to fight to win every single battle, but you always know any gain that you make is in danger of being pushed back… There are no easy short-term solutions. Yes, having a union is almost always better than not having a union, but it’s not the end of the struggle,” said Kimball Cariou.

The Student Worker Alliance Group was founded in conjunction with negotiations of the contracted cleaners at Capilano University and have been working on pushing forward a policy of a Living Wage on campus for all workers with plans to take on other social justice issues affecting workers and students.

This Wednesday, SWAG and SEIU Local 2 will be organizing a rally to stand with low-wage working people on campus and deliver a petition and open letter to University President Paul Dangerfield that calls on all stakeholders to implement a formal Living Wage and Benefits policy for all campus workers.

See Event Details …

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Blog Post on The Capilano University Student Worker Alliance Group

Tucked away in the economically privileged North Shore of Metro Vancouver, Capilano University is an institution that includes the concepts of “an ethic of fairness” and “a commitment to our communities” in its strategic vision, yet the contracted cleaners on campus are currently making poverty wages. Cleaners are forced to work two, sometimes three jobs, to survive life in Metro Vancouver, an area with an ever-increasing cost of living, as wages remain stagnant. The trend of institutions contracting out labour has pushed industry standards for the private janitorial sector to rock bottom, as cleaning companies compete against each other in a competitive bidding process. This creates a “race to the bottom,” as price of the bid becomes the number one determining factor as to which company wins the contract.

However, the cleaners at Capilano University have fought back, and came together to fight for better working conditions by unionizing with SEIU Local 2. Despite an aggressive anti-union campaign their employer, Best Service Pros, waged, followed by legal challenges forcing the ballots from the vote to remain sealed for months, the cleaners did not give up. In June of 2017, the ballots were finally unsealed, and the cleaners won their union with a majority “yes” vote. The fight has continued this fall at the bargaining table. The cleaners are not alone in this fight though, as students, staff and faculty from Capilano university have stepped up with to stand in solidarity with them.

Campus-wide support

Upon finding out about this injustice, some Capilano University Students decided to come together and build a campaign to support all workers on campus.  It was a facebook post that informed Leticia, a second year Creative Writing Major from Port Coquitlam, about the issue. She heard about the problem and wanted to help. Shaunti, a Global Stewardship student, attended a film screening and met some of the cleaners directly, from there she was eager to start a club, quickly pulling her friend, Daniel, on board. Shaunti, Daniel and Leticia would become the founding members of the Capilano University Student Workers Alliance group, “SWAG,” for short. From there, Mansoureh, Marjan, Elmira and Meltem wanted to volunteer for a cause they cared about, and quickly started attending club meetings. Vick, another student angry about the exploitative system all workers are subject to, soon joined as well.

New Logo with words

The Campaign So Far

The club meets once a week, and meetings are open to all to discuss how to move the campaign forward, such as promoting the petition and open letter to more members of the Capilano University community. Club members attended a presentation from the Living Wages for Families campaign, learning more about how to pressure an institution most effectively to pay all its workers, both direct and contracted, a living wage. They have brainstormed and thought ahead, and handled logistics of event planning. The group is putting together a panel event to be taking place on Wednesday, November 22nd at 2:30pm in room LB 195 on campus at Capilano University, which will feature some of the leaders from the cleaning team at Cap U, along with another worker leader from the University of Washington who was intrinsic to the successful campaign for a minimum of $15/hour minimum wage on campus. Additionally, an organizer from the Living wage for Families campaign will speak to put everything in a broader context. Students have been very dedicated to promoting this event, talking to their teachers, classes and friends about it.

Students have also engaged directly with the President of Capilano University, Paul Dangerfield. Club members attended a “Student Voice” event, that was aimed at getting students to talk to the president about what they think would make the student experience outstanding. SWAG members feel that paying all workers on campus a living wage would improve their university experience because knowing injustices are taking place at Capilano University takes away from their educational experience. The president eventually stopped addressing the concerns students brought forward, but they were not deterred and stayed after the event to ensure a face to face conversation happened.

Looking towards the future

The goals of the group are for Capilano University to implement a Living Wages and Benefits Policy for all workers on campus, both direct and contracted, so that nobody who is a part of the campus community is forced to live in poverty. The group would like to see this movement expand to other university campuses too, as the problems with contracted and low-waged workers is not isolated to Capilano University. They plan to continue to meet, organize, and bring more students into the movement, and are looking forward to continuing to push for justice!

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Toronto Star: Sweeping updates to workplace protections become law

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Ontario workers win $15 an hour and other improvements!

 

J4J members join OFL delegates on November 22 in march for justice and fairness.

Local 2 members join OFL delegates on November 22 in march for justice and fairness.

 

Visit the Fight for $15 & Fairness website for all the latest updates!

 

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Ottawa J4J BBQ

 

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