North Island College student Mary Rickinson

College staff hit with paid parking

Students aren’t alone when it comes to paid parking at North Island College.

Students aren’t the only ones required to pay to park vehicles at North Island College. This year, paid parking also applies to employees at the Courtenay campus.

Michelle Waite, CUPE 3479 president for NIC support staff, says the former staff parking area has become a “free-for-all.” She and other employees are being charged $450 for a yearly parking pass.

“This is affecting people hugely, for their families,” Waite said. “As a support staff worker, it’s about equivalent to one per cent of my gross wage.

“It’s a public institution, so even all of our community users (have to pay),” she added.

This includes the approximate 1,200 members of ElderCollege, and the volunteer instructors of the program for those 55 and older.

“We’re a rural community college, and people come here because it’s close to home, it’s their first step often in branching out. And now we’ve taken one of our campuses — our largest campus — and we’ve implemented paid parking.”

Waite is aware of other post-secondary schools, such as Vancouver Island University, that charge for staff parking. She said employees at Kwantlen Polytechnic University on the mainland pay $120 a year to park.

“There’s quite a disparity at so many levels,” she said.

College administration has received 31 letters about the issue from employees.

“I was struck by the many heartfelt feelings that were expressed in those letters,” college president John Bowman said Thursday at a board of governors meeting.

He notes the letters contain about 20 recurring themes, which he will discuss with a senior leadership team.

“We’ll be giving further consideration to possible follow-up action in response to the feedback that employees and students have provided. I think there are several ideas that will be helpful as we review the early stages of implementation of paid parking in the coming weeks. We will give very serious consideration to opportunities for improvement and change.”

Some improvements could be implemented quickly, but he said others may need to wait until the end of the semester or the year.

Bowman notes the complexity of some suggestions that, for instance, involve government policies and guidelines pertaining to administration of college property, and regarding employee compensation and collective bargaining.

“Clearly, many of the letter writers, with the best of intentions, have communicated their feelings and perceptions without having a full understanding of the broader context in which the college operates. And that’s fine.”

Bowman intends to consider all feedback and to report back to the board and the college community before the end of November.

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