Support staff union and school reach agreement

Support staff at the University of Calgary, who are members of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, voted in favour of a tentative contract Jan. 26. Sixty-four per cent voted in favour of the proposed collective agreement.

“We were steady all day, I think it was about average for the responses that we do get,” said AUPE Local 52 spokesperson and chair of the bargaining team Shirley Maki.

The union did not release the number of voters.

The contract included no wage increase from March 2010-April 2011 and three more personal days off followed by a one per cent increase from March 2011-April 2012 with three additional personal days off. These increases are down from increases of 5.0 per cent in 2008 and 4.5 per cent in 2009.

“The reality is that the university has no money and the reality is that the provincial government is failing to fund post-secondary education in an appropriate manner,” said Maki. “As a result there isn’t money there to give salary increases to staff.”

Maki said there was a good chance the bargaining would have ended up in arbitration if the vote had not passed.

“We realize that this is not a tremendously wonderful contract,” said Maki. “It certainly is the best that we thought we could get from the employer. Obviously I guess the membership thought so too.”

“We shouldn’t be expecting a raise every year,” said AUPE member, Heather Baylis. “The university tries to provide us with as much as possible.”

Baylis cited free tuition, medical benefits, personal leave days and plenty of vacation time as examples of university benefits for support staff.

“There are lots of people who are unemployed that want jobs too and the fact that we have job security with the university is a great plus for me,” continued Baylis. “Most people don’t have unions that fight for them and it’s a benefit for us that we have a union.”

Markin undergraduate student research program coordinator and AUPE member Ingrid Schmidt said she noticed a lot of people up in arms about what was going on and what was offered.

“It seemed to be that some people were wanting a larger raise, of course,” said Schmidt.

She worked out that over the past five years the union’s wage increases have been outpacing Calgary’s consumer price index inflation.

“Given the climate on campus, I’m glad at this point in time we have a contract and at this point in time I still have a job,” said Schmidt. “We can’t assume that we will get an increase.”

Schmidt said increases or decreases she receives in her salary do not affect how she acts with students.

“A dispute with an employer should not ever have anything to do with the students, who are the reason we’re here,” said Schmidt.

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