It appears that the campaign to win a living wage for cleaning staff at North Vancouver’s Capilano University (see People’s Voice, Dec. 1-31, 2017) is forcing the employer to pay attention, but the struggle is far from over.
The Capilano Courier’s Tia Kutshera Fox reports that the cleaners successfully applied to the Labour Board last year for the right to join the Service Employees International Union Local 2. The SEIU’s “Justice for Janitors” campaign includes struggles to achieve a living wage for cleaners at post-secondary institutions throughout Canada.
A petition circulated on campus has so far gathered 1200 names – 18% of total enrollment – in support of the Living Wage for Families Campaign, which says such a wage is just over $20 per hour for Metro Vancouver workers, well above the $11.50-12 paid to CapU cleaners.
The Courier reports that after a meeting with the campus Student Worker Alliance Group (SWAG) in November, university President Paul Dangerfield stated that he would consider making the living wage an “element” of the 2030 Campus Master Facilities and Urban Plan.
SEIU 2 organizer Zoe Luba told the Courier that Dangerfield’s “assertion that he would consider putting living wage in the campus plan for 2030 as a non-response, to me it’s not a final answer, I think it just means that we need to keep pushing for him to move more quickly on this… They [the cleaners] can’t wait till 2030 for a living wage. They’re living in poverty right now.”
Luba argues that CapU has the financial inability to pay a living wage. “I know the University has the funds now to make this transition happen,” she says. “We’ve met with the main organizer for living wage for families campaign. She’s broken it down for us, shown us statistically how it works, showed similar-sized contracts like Vancity or City of Vancouver, and they’ve transitioned. They’re living wage employers now. It’s not about ability, it’s about political will.”