Special Membership Meeting – Nominations

Special Membership Meeting Notice

Why: Nominations for Elections

Who: President

Vice President

Secretary Treasurer

Recording Secretary

Chief Steward

Sgt. At Arms

Trustee(s): 1 for 3 years, 1 for 2 years, 1 for 1 year

When: Sunday November 13, 2016 at 7pm

Where: Bricker Academic – BA201

CUPE Health and Safety Officer

The current Executive would like to thank Cindy Schmidt for all her hard work and dedication as CUPE Health and Safety Officer. Cindy has accepted a temporary position within the SHERM office for an 8 month term. We wish her all the best in her new role.

The new CUPE Executive along with Human Resources and Management will be working on defining the CUPE Health and Safety Position and will post the position for an 8 month term.

Updated Picket Schedule

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Help support 926 members on strike defending good jobs at Wilfrid Laurier University

WHERE:  75 University Avenue West, Waterloo

PICKETING SCHEDULE

Wednesday July 13, 2016

7:00 am – 5:00 pm

Special Guest: Catherine Fife, MPP Waterloo NDP – 11:45am

Thursday July 14, 2016

7:00 am – 5:00 pm

Charles Fleury, National Secretary-Treasurer, is joining the picket line  from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Friday July 15, 2016

7:00 am – 5:00 pm

Shut the Campus Down Day Rally – led by Fred Hahn, CUPE Ontario Division  – 11am

UNIVERSITIES WORK BECAUSE WE DO!

If Wilfrid Laurier University won’t pay a living wage, then who will?

Unions helped build a strong middle class in this country, with decent wages, benefits and pensions. But those gains are steadily slipping away along with union membership itself.

Just 29 per cent of Canadian employees belonged to a union in 2014, according to Statistics Canada. Changes in the economy, such as the decline in manufacturing jobs over the past few decades, mean that the percentage of union members in the workforce has steadily fallen since 1981, when nearly 38 per cent were unionized.

Young people particularly are shut out. In 2012, less than 15 per cent of employees aged 17 to 24 belonged to a union. But 35 per cent of people aged 55 to 64 did.

This is the big-picture backdrop for the strike involving 110 unionized custodians, grounds workers and tradespeople who work at Wilfrid Laurier University’s campus in Waterloo.

The scenario facing these unionized workers, about half of whom are custodians, is sadly familiar.

(Full disclosure: I taught communication studies and English courses part-time at Laurier for many years. I no longer teach there, but will belong to the faculty union until 2018.)

The university proposes that existing custodians would keep their $21-an-hour jobs. But new positions — created when someone leaves or when new hires are needed because of expansion on campus — would not be unionized.

Instead, these jobs would be contracted out to a private company. Not only would the workers not belong to a union, they would be paid far less than people doing exactly the same work in the same workplace.

The union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, says the university already hired nine non-union custodians for a new building on University Avenue, and those workers are paid $12.90 an hour.

You can’t raise a family on that. Even a single person can barely live on it.

Laurier is not the first employer to propose a two-tiered agreement in which recently hired workers do the same job as their colleagues who have been there longer, but for less money and worse working conditions. Plenty of workplaces now have these arrangements.

But should a university be different?

Jim Butler, Laurier’s vice-president: finance and administration, said in a statement that any agreement “must be in the best interests of the institution and its students.”

Didn’t he leave someone out?

In part because we expect a lot of them, universities are possibly the most privileged institutions we have.

Government funding is plentiful (just check the Ontario “sunshine list” if you want to see the salaries of professors and administrators).

There’s no shortage of customers, and there is always plenty of money for innovative research and new strategies.

What there isn’t money for, apparently, are living wages for the people who mop the floors and clean the toilets.

Not everyone has what it takes to get a PhD in computer science. If we want to live in a society that is compassionate as well as smart, we have to make sure that all kinds of people can earn a decent living.

If Wilfrid Laurier University, from its relatively comfortable position, can’t or won’t show us how this can be done, who will?

ldamato@therecord.com

Laurier is pursing a vision it can’t afford

What is it, truly, that adds to a university’s “global reputation?”

Custodial workers at Wilfrid Laurier University have gone on strike, and the university administration has done its best to construct itself as the epitome of a reasonable employer. Thus, they point out, no current employees will lose their jobs. That’s true, but then that’s what employers always propose when they put in place problematic workplace policies, and what it really means is that the union, and current employees, care more about future employees than the administration.

Most importantly, the administration says that contracting out will get things done more cheaply — which of course is also true, and will always be true, when people are paid less and get fewer if any benefits.

Still, Laurier is facing a structural deficit, so aren’t job-destroying “efficiencies” justified? In the end, your answer here, I suggest, will depend on how you come down on the issue of why a structural deficit exists, and this, in turn, requires us to consider something that is just never part of the discussion.

About 10 years ago, Laurier decided to move from being a “Primarily Undergraduate” university to a “Comprehensive” university (the formal change in the Maclean’s Survey occurred in 2011). And what did this shift mean? Partly, it meant a proliferation of graduate programs. Why? Because graduate programs are key to “building Laurier’s global reputation” (that’s a quote from the report on Graduate Student Enrolment presented to Laurier’s board governors last month).

Did the province really need to pay for another Comprehensive University, especially one just down the street from a Comprehensive University (the University of Waterloo) with an outstanding reputation? Not sure that the public — and in particular the taxpaying public — ever got to weigh in on that.

Some of the increased costs were capital expenses associated with some graduate programs, but a lot of the increase was associated with the salaries needed to attract the professors who staff these programs. And even a quick look at the 2016 Sunshine list will give you a good idea of just how high some of those faculty salaries are.

The drive to sail in the same waters as the University of Waterloo has also been accompanied by an increase in highly paid administrators. An example: We used to have a single Dean of Students. That one position has now become three: a Dean of Students at each campus (Waterloo and Brantford) and a vice-president of Student Affairs — whose combined salaries on the 2016 list is over $450K. I know all three people currently in those positions, and I have no hesitation in saying that all three are talented and dedicated. The point is simply that “one” became “three” and that the salary costs alone are high (especially given what the administration says it will save through its contracting out proposals).

The complicating factor in the case of professorial salaries is, of course, tenure. Yes, I know, tenure protects academic freedom, the right to seek the truth without fear of losing your job. And yes, this can be a valuable resource in promoting collegial governance. Certainly, I’ve relied on it myself a number of times over my career. But this does not negate other truths. First, a lot of professors will never make use of academic freedom, and I’ve always thought (OK, this is whimsical) that for some, if a truly controversial idea popped into their head, they’d faint.

Mainly, though, although everyone denies it, the reality is that tenure is de facto job security. True, universities across North American can and have found ways to dismiss troublesome professors, but this is rare — and a reason not to be troublesome. The bottom line, though, is that addressing budgetary issues by going after the tenured faculty salary mass is difficult if not impossible.

And so what do universities do? What many employers do: Go after the employees with the least power to resist.

It might be nice to live in a world where letting notions of social justice guide employment policies would add as much to a university’s “global reputation” as graduate programs, but we’re not there yet. Still, this is not to say we couldn’t get there, or at least try.

For example, two years ago exactly, McMaster University made a similar attempt to contract out custodial services. It almost happened, but a strong and principled faculty counteroffensive caused them to rethink that plan. A letter circulated to faculty by Don Wells, in McMaster’s Department of Labour Studies, pointed out that custodial workers were “especially vulnerable in our increasingly precarious labour markets (being) recent immigrants, women, single parents, racialized workers, etc.” and went on to say that notwithstanding McMaster’s financial problems “Those who are at the lowest end of Mac’s pay scale should have the highest priority in meeting their needs and those of their families.” Good points, and, as I say, the university relented.

There’s been some resistance offered by faculty here at Laurier, but it seems limited, and I fear that the erosion of reasonably-paid custodial jobs for vulnerable people will be another cost that will have to be chalked up to Laurier’s decision to pursue a vision it cannot afford.

Michael Carroll is a professor in the Department of Sociology at Wilfrid Laurier University. He recently completed a five-year year term as Laurier’s Dean of Arts.