About 150 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees set up picket lines on Thursday at the Burnaby Mountain campus of Simon Fraser University.
The move comes after escalating job action since early September failed to make any headway with the employer.
“We don’t want to have to escalate (job action) and inconvenience students . but we’re certainly prepared to escalate matters if we don’t soon see some movement,” said John Bannister, business agent for local 3338. “Right now, we’re not even at the bargaining table and we’ve been trying to negotiate for the last two years.”
Bannister said union members have been without a contract for more than two years and want wage increases, inflation protection and job security.
Thousands of other union members around the province also set up picket lines at five other universities on the same day, including the University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria, Thompson Rivers University, Royal Roads University and the University of Northern British Columbia.
There are about 1,000 union members who work at SFU as support staff, including those in food services and janitorial positions.
Members launched a silent protest outside the convocation mall starting at noon.
Wearing placards, the group turned their backs on the graduation ceremony taking place, in a protest intended to get the message across without disrupting the convocation exercises, according to the union website.
Bannister said students responded positively to the picketers, asking questions and talking with them outside the library.
CUPE 3338 president Lynne Fowler also said the action was well received.
“People really got the message that SFU needs to engage with its CUPE support staff,” she noted in a statement on the union website.