Students To University of Guelph: Workers Deserve 'Respectful, Fair' Treatment

University is courting a labour dispute by ignoring clear path to settlement

GUELPH, ON, Sept. 7, 2011 /CNW/ - University of Guelph students are supporting workers who are concerned the university's administration may provoke a disruptive strike on campus.

The Central Student Association at the University of Guelph has pledged support to 900 administrative, technical and teaching support staff who want to negotiate a new collective agreement with the university.

The 900 workers are members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 4120. Over the last several days they have expressed concern that, rather than negotiate meaningfully, the university is demanding unnecessary concessions that could provoke a strike.

In response, the Central Student Association's executive committee has unanimously passed a motion calling for "respectful, fair" negotiations to reach a compromise and avoid a labour dispute.

"The Central Student Association believes … that every effort should be taken to support workers concerns," the students' motion states.

"The Central Student Association supports the United Steelworkers, and specifically Local 4120, in its efforts to negotiate with the University of Guelph in a way that is respectful, fair, legal, and acknowledges workers' rights to security."

The student association says it also plans to establish a "strike support committee" to provide ongoing support to the workers in the event the university provokes a dispute.

"The most important thing for students to understand is that students are workers and workers are students. In negotiations, labour unions fight for the security of the future generation of workers - students," said Demetria Jackson, the CSA's External Affairs Commissioner.

The university's unprecedented "hostile" approach to contract negotiations could lead to a strike as early as Thursday, said USW Local 4120 President Wendy Morley.

A major issue in negotiations is the university's intractable demands for major concessions from workers on pension issues.

"We acknowledge that the University of Guelph, like other Ontario universities, faces challenges with regard to pensions and pension funding," Morley said.

"We have presented the administration with a proposal that addresses this crucial issue for the university and for our members. Instead of considering our proposal and taking a clear path to a settlement, the university continues to demand concessions and risk a labour dispute."

Morley noted that such a resolution was reached last weekend between the University of Toronto and its 3,800 administrative and technical employees - also members of the United Steelworkers.

"The University of Toronto and its unionized workers faced the same issues and managed to negotiate a solution that worked for all - without disruption to students, parents and the entire university community," Morley said.

"This is the responsible path we are prepared to follow with the University of Guelph. Unfortunately, the university continues to reject meaningful negotiations on the issue of pensions. As the USW has shown all along, we are prepared to negotiate. But is the administration?"

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information:

Wendy Morley, President, USW Local 4120, 519-766-4120, wendy@uswa4120.ca;
Demetria Jackson, External Affairs Commissioner Central Student Association, 519-824-4120 x58328, csaext@uoguelph.ca;
Tom Walsh, USW Staff Representative, 519-650-3405, twalsh@usw.ca.


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