Campus union poised for strike following vote
Thursday, June 24, 20103 Comments
The union representing trades, maintenance and service workers at the University of Guelph has voted to go into a legal strike position, following a snag in negotiations.
The 250 members of CUPE Local 1334 were eligible to cast ballots at noon and 5 p.m. Thursday. Another vote was planned for 2:30 a.m. Friday morning to ensure all three work shifts have a chance to participate, said .
According to a press release issued early Friday morning, 93 per cent voted in favour of going on strike.
If planned conciliation conciliation talks fail, the union could be in a strike position in as little as four weeks. That could have an impact on services on campus, from the upkeep of residence rooms to the collection of garbage, said Janice Folk-Dawson, President of CUPE Local 1334
“Our members are in contact with students on this campus from the time they get up in the morning to the time the go to bed,” Folk-Dawson said.
The local has been without a collective bargaining agreement since the end of April.
Dawson said the two parties met at the beginning of May and “presented full packages, including financial proposals.”
She denied the two sides were at an “impasse” but said there were areas where “more discussion” was necessary to bring the two sides closer together.
Questions about negotiations on the university side were directed to Marth Harley, Assistant Vice-President (Human Resources), who could not be reached for comment.
The University has since filed for conciliation, where a third party attempts to mediate disputes between the two sides. However, the mediator’s recommendations are non-binding.
Reached by email, Denise Martins, External Affairs Commissioner for the Central Student Association, said it was "unfortunate" for conciliation talks to happen so early, "as I believe that bargaining is a serious matter that should never be rushed."
The CSA has policies in place in the event of a labour dispute, Martins pointed out. These call for the CSA to "make public their support workers," ensure students are supported during a stike, and "respect picket lines where it is possible."
Folk-Dawson called pensions the “number one” issue for her bargaining unit.
As a result of hits to pension investments from the recession, the University no longer has the amount necessary to sustain the pensions of every worker if the institution became insolvent, she said.
Dawson accused the University of squandering pension surpluses and relying on high-risk investments for the pension fund, saying her members would not be held responsible for the “mismanagement” of their nest eggs or accept rolebacks in pension payouts.
She also claimed the University expected workers to accept a freeze on salaries, similar to wage restraint legislation recently adopted by the Ontario Legislature.
The Public Sector Compensation Restraint to Protect Public Services Act, which passed second reading in May, places a freeze on compensation and benefits for employees working at many public institutions in Ontario, including universities and colleges, hospitals, school boards, and public corporations like Hydro One. It also applies to non-profit employers that receive more than $1 million in funding from the province.
The legislation does not apply to collective bargaining units, however – and Dawson said her workers can’t handle a wage freeze.
She compared her own salary of $40,000 to that of President Alastair Summerlee, who made $434,000 last year.
“If anyone needs to make concessions, I think we should start looking there,” she said.