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Opinion: Dear University

Thursday, April 19, 2012

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Written by Denise Martins

Dear University,

I have an idea! Treat your workers with respect. I have recently been made aware of the struggle part-time library workers are being forced to undertake in order to receive an ounce of respect from the University. Nine of them have recently unionized and are working to bargain their first collective agreement.

The University has been claiming that giving in to their modest demands are in no way financially feasible and that these nine workers need to tighten their belts. This made me ask, what kinds of things could these workers possibly be asking for? Diamond studded parking spaces? A break room with an unlimited supply of caviar? That seemed unlikely. Unfortunately workers at the University of Guelph have been forced to give up on dreaming big and have instead asked for things the University should have been providing in the first place.

The first demand is a living wage. They are asking that this wage be phased in over the next year and a half. This would be a great step up from what the University has been paying them the last couple of years. In fact, one of the workers has been stuck on minimum wage for over three years! Even I, after working at Tim Horton’s for six months, got a raise. I would argue that this raise is long overdue and if it’s not in the University's planning, then the University has its priorities mixed up. No raise in a world of inflation means a pay cut every year (since the price of everything we need to purchase to survive increases every year).

They want their hours set to 24 hours per week. After unionization, the University cut workers hours to 18, just enough to make all of them inelegible for employment insurance and if you were laid off for 4 months each year (as many of them are during the summer), employment insurance likely means being able to live meagerly when the University doesn't need you. 

Lastly, they are asking for the same pension agreement maintenance workers have received at our university. These folks aren’t students. These workers have families to take care of and are stuck in a world of unemployment. Their last resort is working for an employer that doesn’t care whether they make it past 60, let alone that they are able to retire and live those years above the poverty line.

So what does the University say when they are called out by workers on this neglect? TIGHTEN YOUR BELTS. Even though I’m Latin American, I know in Canada we are supposed to reserve "fat cat" comments for unions.  What would corporate media say about our library?  Maybe they would echo the University with lines like "how can they think they can get a pay increase when times are so tough".

The university administration needs to tighten their belts and maybe have each of their 20k bonuses cut in half next year so that these Guelph families aren’t forced to live on poverty wages.

The university’s capital campaign (the BetterPlanet Project) claims the university exists to foster an environment of community and food and friendship and all things that are nice (I think I saw a puppy in one of their ads). Here’s an opportunity to give back to the community handed to you in a silver platter! Sure, they may not have millions of dollars to donate like some of the corporations you are befriending but they could sure use your help, University of Guelph.

XO,

Denise Martins

PS: If you are a student, next time you go the library, thank the workers reshelving books, since from what I hear, the university’s gratitude has been lacking.

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.

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  1. Posted by: Peter119 on May 11, 2012 @ 12:38am

    The university is not an ethical employer. Hospitality workers are treated just as poorly. If you are a student needing a few hours to make some rent, grocery, drink money it does the job. But the people who are trying to support a family are disrespected. They are never given fill-time with the "living wage", benefits, pension. The university keeps as many people part-time as possible, paying them minimum wage, and doing the legal minimum.

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