If the students of the University of Guelph thought they dodged a labour disruption bullet a few weeks ago, it looks like their “March break” will be a forced break from routine if the university’s trades and maintenance hit the picket lines. And 48 hours out from the deadline, thinks are looking bleak for a last minute deal.
In a new press release posted on the main web page for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, local 1334 leadership is accusing the university of not bargaining in good faith. “I felt the most recent offer that came to us was a betrayal,” said Janice Folk-Dawson, President of Local 1334 in the release.
“In good faith, we believed we were discussing a path to permanent work for workers who in some cases have been here for seven years. Somehow, that morphed into a proposal where these workers and many others would then risk being transformed into permanent employees – for as few as eight months a year,” added Folk-Dawson.
CUPE 1334 represents 240 trades people and maintenance staff on the U of G campus. A source tells me that the sticking the point in the negotiations has to do more with maintenance than the trades, as the university has been following the trend and contracting out janitorial services. According to CUPE, 39 people on staff currently count as temporary workers, and the union is working to push the university to make them permanent staff rather than renewing them at the end of a contract every few months. There seems to be some disagreement on that point.
“We have the weekend to reach an agreement, and if this is how Guelph intends to spend the weekend, I am not optimistic we can reach agreement before the deadline,” Folk-Dawson said pessimistically. But then again, it’s been pessimistic all week.
In preparation for the worst, Guelph Transit has posted a handy map to show people that take the bus where they’ll be dropped off and picked up during the strike, just outside the OMAFRA building at 1 Stone Rd. Transit workers, since they’re unionized, won’t cross a picket line if a fellow union’s on strike. Indeed, while other services and staff at the university may not be on strike come Monday, there could still be other disruptions as fellow unions lend solidarity to those striking.
There’s no news from the University of Guelph end on the present state of negotiations; their last word on it was a post earlier this week. In the meantime, the U of G was celebrating today their one recent labour accomplishment, the ratification of the new agreement with the TAs and sessionals of CUPE 3913. Meanwhile, CUPE 1281 and CUPE 3913 remain in mediation after failing to come to agreement last week, but talks will continue with a CUPE National Representative until March 19. You can learn more about that situation here.
In the meantime, CUPE is holding the fact that the U of G is hosting a very public event next weekend over the heads of the administration. “There is a great deal of effort that goes into ensuring our campus is at its very best for the many prospective students and their families who come to the University for College Royal. Now is not the time to be moving backwards. It’s time to get serious about negotiating a fair collective agreement,” said Folk-Dawson.
The strike deadline is 12:01 am on Monday, and a Provincially-appointed mediator will be working with both sides all weekend. Stay tuned.