Response to Max Blouw

Dear Dr. Blouw,

Thank you for your response. I find it interesting that you only state custodians would not be laid off as a result of “contracting out”, but make no other mention of other ways traditionally used to lay off employees. Most notably, using the excuse of BUDGET CUTS, then hiring a third party company to perform the same work. Just because you’re not laying someone off due to contracting out, does not mean that the 67 custodians have a secure job. Do the right thing and secure the jobs of these hard working 67 people. Their families depend on it. As an alumni of WLU, I am saddened to hear that the University I attended in order to get a good job, is taking measures to get rid of the good jobs they provide to residents of Waterloo Region. Shame.

Amy M. Class of ’05

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.

Response to Max Blouw


Your arguments aren’t sound. As an academic, it should be easy enough for you to see the problems with your arguments. Universities are places with people not institutions that focus solely on productivity, progress, and “financial sustainability”. The constant rhetoric that universities are under corporation-style peril from their shareholders is beyond far fetched. What you’re saying is that you won’t directly and illegally attack unionized workers who can fight back but you will slowly erode the bargaining unit and contract out work to those who cannot fight back. You say so yourself, quite directly, in your email. It is your plan to contract out these positions.

You’re attempting to continue to reduce the quality of rights for workers on campus. As workers retire or as you put it “freely vacate” will you commit to replacing them with unionized workers or will you continue to contract out those positions? No, you won’t. And productivity cannot be the model for a university if that means that you eliminate good jobs and contract out jobs to avoid providing good working conditions and benefits. Contracting out also means contracting our your responsibility to the people who work for and serve the university community. There’s only one responsible option here: stop trying to erode bargaining unit work.



Another Response

Dear Dr. Blouw,

I did not have any of the misconceptions you mentioned. I also have no illusions about the harmful effects of your stated intentions regarding attrition of the good union jobs and directing the work towards the slippery slope of third-party contractors.

Custodial contract work is renowned as one of the most abusive industries in our society, exploiting primarily minority group workers in poorly paid jobs with no benefits and no job security, and little to no visibility, recognition or respect from the people and institutions they serve – as you’ve amply demonstrated by your position as stated in your email and in bargaining.

As a public institution, you have not only a fiscal responsibility to the public that pays you, these custodial staff, but also a social responsibility to the public at large that you are funded by (Ontario) and the community at large that you serve (Waterloo and region).

Take a day to come down out off the top-earner spot of your tower and walk the grounds in their shoes, doing their work. You’d still be paid ten times more than them for that day, but maybe you would learn and earn some respect for and from them.

Thank you for your interest in the well-being of the people and the community impacted by this matter – not just your bottom line.

Sean Kelly
Coordonnateur syndical / Union Coordinator


Response to Max Blouw’s email

Dear Dr. Blouw:

I was saddened to read of the proposed out-sourcing of custodial jobs at Laurier. As you likely know, Waterloo Region is a provincial leader in the Living Wage initiative, and this action flies in the face of all that the literature tells us about stable, sufficient income as a determinant of health. Since these jobs are often performed by new immigrant women (often caring for young children)  and others who are the vulnerable, the move would be particularly damaging.

I’ve done some quick math with the numbers I’ve seen, and estimate that this potential outsourcing pads would save WLu $1 per custodian hour, and pad the pockets of a private company  with a $6.00 an hour/ per custodian profit, and leave the actual workers with $6 less per hour, roughly 1/3 of the current pay.  I know my family would be hard hit by such a wage reduction, and I’m sure yours would as well.

As a well-resourced, progressive and socially-responsible University, I would hope that you will maintain these higher paying jobs for individuals trying to better themselves in this prosperous region.

Kim Hodgson , MHSc.



Help us to defend good jobs at Laurier

betraying-workers-2Wilfrid Laurier University wants to outsource cleaning work on campus, replacing decently paid custodial jobs with ones that pay low wages and offer only precarious work. It’s a move will increase inequality on campus and cut the number of good jobs in the Waterloo region.

Laurier’s custodians are dedicated members of our community, fighting to maintain high-quality cleaning standards for students, staff, and faculty.

Help us to defend good jobs at Laurier by sending an e-mail to President and Vice-Chancellor Max Blouw.  Let him and other Laurier leaders know that you support decent jobs, fair pay and good services for all.

Produced by CUPE and Local 926

In need of Volunteers!

There is a rally tomorrow, Feb. 11 at 1pm regarding students against the statue project.  I feel that this will be a great opportunity to get the word out about our issues to the student community.  I need a couple volunteers to hand out some flyers from about 1-2. Please let me know if you’re able to attend and I’ll get you some flyers. Email me at

In Solidarity


Universities Work Because We Do!

CUPE 926 is Bargaining in Good Faith

CUPE Local 926 continues to try to find a reasonable solution with Wilfrid Laurier University. Our Union has 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 included review and recommendation of sick leave which would represent a sustainable short term sick leave plan for WLU employees.

The WLU management team’s response was to withdraw their sick leave proposal and reject our proposal related to a new custodial position at $17.

Mismanagement Blamed on Workers

WLU is demanding the Union agree to their proposed amendments that will remove language which protects bargaining unit positions and retirement benefits. The reason given by the WLU administration is that they are not seeing value from our members’ work.

However, the statistics show it is management that is preventing quality cleaning, not workers.

WLU has not been filling custodial positions vacated due to retirements and resignations. This means that your custodians are trying to maintain a high standard of cleanliness even though they are required to clean significantly larger areas especially in light of the fact that the number of custodians has been reduced from approximately 100 to 68.

In addition, WLU’s VP of Finance, Jim Butler has been misleading the university community on sick leave in an attempt to blame absenteeism for service quality issues. However, disclosure of sick leave shows the average yearly personal sick leave at 11 days, well below the 19 days per year outlined by the administration in a recent letter.

WLU management has not provided required cleaning and paper products necessary to maintain cleaning quality standards. Again, it is the reduction in the number of custodians and mismanagement of cleaning product inventory that has resulted in lower quality, not our members work.

It is clear to Local 926 that WLU management proposals are not related to cost containment. Instead, they are part of an attack on the Union to replace good jobs at WLU with low wages and precarious work. In the end, we see this strategy as one that will undermine the university and the community.

CUPE Local 926 will continue the fight against deterioration of the bargaining unit, erosion of our collective agreement and the growth of precarious work at WLU.

The Board of Governors has indicated that it is their obligation to ensure the best student experience at WLU. Our members believe that labour unrest is not in the best interests of anyone at WLU.

A fair settlement can be achieved if the administration simply withdraws the proposal relating to contracting out.


CUPE Local 926 Bargaining Committee