UPDATED: CUPE 926 continues to fight for renewed agreement

Photo by Jessica Dik
Photo by Jessica Dik

On June 17, Wilfrid Laurier University released an update on the status of negotiations with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Local 926, which represents all regular workers in Laurier’s department of physical resources.

Currently, Laurier and CUPE are in the middle of negotiating the renewal of their collective agreement, which expired last June. According to the statement, in an effort to settle remaining issues, Laurier and CUPE completed five days of conciliation.

“A key issue for the University is the cost-effective sustainability of our custodial services. To this point, the parties were unable to reach agreement on allowing the University flexibility to utilize third-party contractors to fill new and vacant custodial positions,” the statement said.

On January 28, Laurier tabled an offer for settlement, which was rejected by the CUPE bargaining team and, according to the statement, was not presented to the membership for information or vote.

Roger Collison, chief steward for CUPE 926, explained that CUPE has always been willing to talk to the university, despite rejection of the latest offer by the CUPE bargaining team.

“[Laurier] gave us a proposal and we never got back to them, we turned down their proposal—they knew that and we told them we’re not going to give up our one article that protects us,” said Collison.

“They wanted to say that they want protection for the people, but we already got the protection, why would we need something that they’re trying to propose.”

CUPE 926 members have been working under the terms and conditions of the expired collective agreement over the past year without salary increases or market adjustments.

“To be able to implement the terms and conditions of the university’s last offer, including 1.5 per cent retroactive pay to July 1, 2015 and a further 1.5 per cent increase effective July 1, 2016, the Ministry of Labour must issue a report that will lift the statutory freeze on any changes to employment conditions,” the statement said.

“It’s all about saving money, but like it says here, they offered us a 1.5 per cent raise every year, that’s pretty generous of them for a university that wants to save money, especially to the people they’re trying to get rid of,” said Collinson.

As a response to Collison, the university has guaranteed that no current CUPE members will lose their job as a result of the university’s proposals.

“It’s also important to note that CUPE has already agreed to this same job-protection
and contracting-out language at other universities,” said Kevin Crowley, director of communications and public affairs via email.

The university has now requested a ‘No Board’ report to be issued from the Ministry of Labour. According to the statement, 17 calendar days after the report is issued, Laurier will have the opportunity to move forward with new employment conditions which will be outlined in its final proposal.

“This deadline also provides the union with the legal right to withdraw services, otherwise known as a strike. As previously communicated, the university will allow all CUPE employees the opportunity to exercise their legal right not to strike and to continue working with full pay and benefits.”

To negotiate on the remaining issues and in an effort to reach a tentative deal on a new collective agreement, the university has requested, to the Ministry of Labour, two scheduled days of mediation before the 17-day deadline in hopes that the union will be able to come forward with a proposal to resolve the pending issues.

According to Collison, CUPE will most likely prepare a proposal during the two days of mediation.

“We’re trying to negotiate a fair deal, so what they want to do, I have no idea,”  Collison continued. “The union, CUPE 926, is more than happy to sit down and negotiate through these two days of mediation with the Ministry of Labour.”

The university has recently released another update in relation to Laurier and CUPE:

“The Ontario Ministry of Labour issued a no board report
on June 23. Seventeen days later ― July 10th at midnight ― the university
will be in a legal position to implement the terms of the offer it made to
the union on Jan. 28, including 1.5 per cent retroactive pay to July 1,
2015 and a further 1.5 per cent increase effective July 1, 2016. The union
will be in a position at this time to exercise its legal right to withdraw
services, if it chooses to do so. The university’s preference is for the
two parties to work with the government-appointed mediator on July 4 and 8
to reach a negotiated settlement.”



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