Vancouver Island University faculty have been on the picket line for several weeks.
Could other public sector workers be joining them? Yesterday, the BCGEU announced a strike vote for 15,000 community social services workers (http://mrwejr.edublogs.org/2011/03/28/school-choice-maintaining-the-hierarchies/). They are seeking job security and protections against contracting out and privatization.
This news came just after the Langara Faculty Association announced their strike vote (http://www.cupe15.org/langara-strike-vote-march-30th). The result - 83% in favour of job action.
And the last major contract that did meet the mandate did so with a tepid majority - the HSABC agreement passed with just 57% including CUPE workers who voted over 97% no and a vocal HSA group opposed to the agreement (http://our-union.org/).
The BC government instituted a "mandate" for public sector workers. What that means is that the people making the decisions (those who wrote the mandate) are not at the table. This is a recipe for failure in good faith bargaining. How can two parties bargain if one is trapped inside an artificial "box" that is the government "mandate"? Even worse, the mandate was written over a year ago, and things have changed.
The government often brags about the number of agreements already signed under the mandate. But this spring is bringing a wave of discontent amongst public sector workers frustrated at being constantly told they are the ones who have to sacrifice.
The government MLAs did not sacrifice when they took 29 - 54% wage increases back in 2007 and they have not rolled back a penny of those increases through the recession. In contrast, public sector wages fell by 2% relative to inflation over the last decade.
To more and more public sector workers, this just looks plain old unfair.