Karen Wong is president of CUPE 3742 in Prince George. CUPE Local 3742 represents clerical, Education Assistants, and Aboriginal Education workers in K-12.
Can you tell me a bit about your history with provincial bargaining?
On the provincial committee, this is the first time I was elected to represent the north. Northern B.C. is a big area and I share that seat with another representative. I’m looking forward to some active provincial bargaining.
What are some of the challenges we face in provincial bargaining?
We have to look at the provincial government we’re dealing with – their tactics in the last round of bargaining – and we have to have some strategies in place. We have a strong provincial bargaining committee who represents all of B.C. Our members stand behind us, and we’re really looking for some aggressive and productive bargaining.
What are some of your goals in bargaining?
I think for my Local, and for the people in the north, we’re looking at representation of the north. We’re looking at issues that some people in the south might not necessarily be aware of, and to bring those issues to the bargaining table. Money is always an issue, but security, pension, benefits, and a fair and negotiated settlement is what we’re looking for.
How can members support the efforts of the bargaining committee?
We need to talk the talk. We have to have member to member conversations. We have to have an awareness within our members, what kind of issues we’re dealing with at the table, and who we’re dealing with, who we’re bargaining with. We have to always build that solidarity and unity. So whether it’s job action, or signing on settlements, we all stand together.
If you could give a message to the employers, what would that be?
The message to the employers I’d like to see is that we’re always ready and willing to bargain, but we do have a responsibility to our members – to the people working – that when we propose a settlement to them, that it’s a fair and equitable settlement.
What do you think members need to know about bargaining?
Members need to be aware of the issues on the table and what the government is saying as well. They have to be kept informed at all stages of the bargaining procedure, and then when we come to a decision, we can all unite behind it.