CUPE 926 rally attracts many to university entrance
At 11 a.m. outside the main entrance to Wilfrid Laurier University, several members and allies of CUPE Local 926 held a rally to discuss the recent issues with university administration and reasons for the ongoing strike, which started earlier this week.
The rally attracted CUPE members from other districts, such as London, Perth and Lindsay, Ontario. Student allies were also present, as well as members from Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association (WLUFA), the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) and Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario.
The participants gathered at the entrance of John Aird Centre, blocking any cars from entering or leaving the university through the most used entrance.
Speakers from several different ally groups were given the chance to speak on the issue of contracting out labour workers, while many expressed that they stand in solidarity with CUPE 926.
“This is a real show of solidarity. There are folks from almost every union in the labour movement … all here today to show these workers their solidarity and their support and their appreciation, but also to send a very clear message to Wilfrid Laurier University, as a movement, the people of Ontario are not going to sit idly by while public institutions create poverty jobs,” said Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario, who spoke several times throughout the rally.
Hahn has advocated for several CUPE workers over the province and said that many other workers are facing similar problems with university administrations.
“There is an attempt, by other universities and it has been an attempt for the last number of years. They billet as a cost savings measures. They say, look. You know our budgets are squeezed from the provincial government. But as students, you will know, that they continue to increase tuition fees year after year after year,” he said.
“At this institution, their student enrolments were up by 21 per cent last year and in fact, the Faculty Association has helped to analyze the budget of the university and they have had a surplus—a significant surplus—for more than a decade, running. So this is not about money, in fact. This is about a political principal that the president of the university has decided that some work isn’t valuable enough to actually be paid a living wage.”
Hahn continued to emphasize that the union is standing firm when it comes to negotiations. He said that even after the strike is over, CUPE Ontario will continue to advocate for fair treatment of workers and fair compensation.
“This strike will end at some point, but we will continue to campaign, as a union with others in this community, with other interested folks who know that contracting out to multi-national corporations, for people who are making pennies above minimum wage, is just wrong and we will continue to campaign against them until they reverse their decision,” said Hahn.
After the rally, Allan Savard, president of CUPE Local 926, was overwhelmed with the support from so many community members.
“I have never gone through this before, so to me it’s just an unbelievable thing. [There are] so many people here and they all have the same concerns,” Savard said.
“We know there’s a lot of people behind us, so we’re just going to keep on doing what we got to do.”
CUPE 926 was scheduled to meet with university administration this afternoon. If negotiations remain unsuccessful, the strike will continue until an agreement can be made.