About 600 CUPE Local 4879 support staff at Thompson Rivers University are taking some job action Thursday and holding a rally on campus to get their employer to take contract negotiations seriously.
Local president Lois Rugg said Wednesday the effort isn't expected to affect students or stop classes.
"Our goal is not to disrupt student activities and classes. We're not at the gates or anything like that," she said. "All I can say is there will be limited strike activity."
Her local joins CUPE staff at five other B.C. universities who are also starting limited job action Thursday. Their contract expired March 31, 2010, and negotiations have been stalled for almost a year.
The next talks are slated for Oct. 18 and 19, but the union locals held strike votes and decided to start some job action ahead of those negotiations to emphasize concessions need to be made, she said.
"The goal is to raise attention to our issues and let the employer we want them to come to the table with a serious proposal," she said.
The rally begins at the Clocktower building at noon, with a march proceeding around campus. There will be other action taken as well, but Rugg wouldn't disclose details.
"Our intent is that we're not going to have major disruption of classes. If there is any disruption, it would be incidental, not intentional."
She said it's possible the limited job action could continue right up to the negotiation dates.
Each local bargains at its own table with its university, although there is a co-ordinated bargaining committee, she said.
"We don't have a provincial bargaining table."
TRU vice-president advancement Christopher Seguin said the university has not been officially notified about job action, but there has been talk circulating about the rally.
TRU will not be canceling classes, he said.
While picket lines are not expected to be set up right away, if they do emerge, TRU's Faculty Association has asked its members to respect them and not cross, said president Jason Brown.
"We're asking all our members, as part of Canadian Labour Congress, to respect any CUPE picket line," he said.
"We've been inundated with questions and inquiries all day. I haven't heard a single negative comment, such as I'm going to cross the picket line."
He said students should consult the TRU Student Union if they have questions about what to do if the strike escalates.
Teaching staff who respect the picket lines are within their rights to do so, he said.
"We do have a legal right in our collective agreement to respect third-party picket lines."