Response to Max Blouw from CUPE

Dear Dr. Blouw: You call it what you want; we call it union busting

Dear CUPE members, supporters and friends:

First, warmest thanks to everyone who signed the petition letter at We are deeply grateful for your solidarity and support for our efforts to retain the anti-contracting out language in CUPE 926’s collective agreement.

Keeping this language in our contract is more than a matter of principle; it is all that stands between good-paying custodial jobs at Laurier and low-paying jobs with an outsourced cleaning service. And it is all that stands between our CUPE members and layoffs.

If you signed the petition letter, you will have received reply from Laurier President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Max Blouw. That’s encouraging for a couple of reasons: it means we know we’re having an impact; and it gives us a chance to refute the misinformation that the university’s leadership is peddling.

Our answer is below; quotes from the university president’s letter are in italics and CUPE’s responses follow:

Among the most challenging of the issues under discussion are those specific to the delivery of custodial services. The University has communicated to CUPE that we are interested in negotiating a business model for custodial services that will be cost effective and sustainable on a go-forward basis…

CUPE’s response: Dr. Blouw, CUPE has a lot of problems with the way custodial services have been run at Laurier, what with positions left unfilled after resignations and retirements, and 67 custodians left doing work meant to done by 100. But whether by accident or design, custodians are being scapegoated for various issues of mismanagement: Laurier gapping positions and stretching existing staff too thinly; claiming that absenteeism is at 19 days per year, when the average is actually 11; failing to provide custodians with standard cleaning supplies; and more.

… and that will not impact the jobs of our current custodians. It is because we value our employees that we have taken this long-term approach and promised that none of our current custodial staff (about 67 in total) will be laid off as a result of contracting out.

CUPE’s response: Wrong, Dr. Blouw. The anti-contracting out article protects workers from being laid off. If it is amended in our collective agreement, the minute the new Global building opens and the “Peters” building closes, three full-time permanent custodians will be laid off. They will have no chance of being recalled to work because Laurier has no plans to transfer these employees to the Global building.

It is important to note that the University is seeking collective agreement language that CUPE has agreed to at many other universities. This language allows for flexibility to use third-party contractors to deliver some custodial services as needed, as long as no existing CUPE employee is laid off as a result

CUPE’s response: Dr. Blouw, please don’t tell us what CUPE has agreed to at other universities. We fight contracting out, privatization and outsourcing every day. We fight for members’ jobs and for the added value that our jobs bring to a community. As for no CUPE employee being laid off – as already mentioned, three workers will be laid off immediately, and the university will let attrition do the rest.

You know that Laurier never intends to hire a custodian ever again. We know this because you announced to the Board of Governors that there will be no CUPE custodians at Laurier.

The University has further assured that no trades or grounds employees will be laid off, and no trades or grounds positions will be lost, as a result of contracting out.

CUPE’s response: Then please put your money where your mouth is, Dr. Blouw: provide a proposal without conditions and offer it to the local’s negotiating committee.

As a public-sector institution it is important for us to ensure that we are delivering services to our students in a productive and financially responsible manner. The current business model for delivering custodial services does not meet these standards of productivity and financial sustainability. Therefore we must seek alternative ways to deliver this service going forward.

CUPE’s response: CUPE proposed the creation of a new custodial position with a starting pay of $17 per hour, similar to custodial classifications across the university sector in Ontario. Other cost-saving measures proposed were recommendations for a sustainable short-term sick leave plan.

But apparently your business model for delivering financially sustainable custodial services involves cleaning services carried out by mainly by immigrant women working for $13 an hour ($3 less than the living wage in the Waterloo region).

The University has tried to problem-solve this issue with CUPE, including the examination of alternatives to contracting out. 

CUPE’s response: No, it hasn’t. In this round of bargaining, Laurier has made no effort to find a compromise.

However the Union has not responded with any proposals to date that adequately address the University’s financial and operational concerns.

CUPE’s response: Nonsense; Laurier’s management team responded to CUPE’s offer by withdrawing their sick leave proposal and rejecting our proposal for a new custodial position at $17 an hour.

Your email allows me the opportunity to clarify a common misbelief that the university will lay off our own custodial, trades and grounds employees once the Collective Agreement is signed.  In fact, this is the opposite of our intentions.  The University seeks first to protect its own employees and only when custodial positions are freely vacated, then to utilize, where feasible, a third party contractor.

CUPE’s response: Dr. Blouw, whether you admit it or not, Laurier’s actions are classic union-busting tactics. Our fight against Laurier’s plans is a fight to preserve good jobs for our members, for the university and for our community.