Guelph U Admin Provoking Needless Disruption for Students

GUELPH, ON, Sept. 2, 2011 /CNW/ - The University of Guelph is courting a disruptive labour dispute by refusing to deal fairly with 900 administrative, technical and teaching support staff, students and their parents are being advised.

"We want to welcome students to our campus and continue to work hard to help make their experience one of the most rewarding of their lives," said Wendy Morley, president of United Steelworkers Local 4120.

"It is our members who have always ensured that the academic programs, labs and animal care facilities at the University of Guelph run smoothly," Morley said.

"Unfortunately as this academic year begins, we all face a potential disruption due to the university administration's refusal to meaningfully negotiate with us to reach a fair collective agreement," she said.

"In fact, we believe the administration is trying to force us on strike as early as Thursday, September 8. This will be very difficult for students, faculty and the entire university community."

The university is courting a labour dispute by demanding that employees pay more in pension contributions and accept cuts in pension benefits, the union says.

"Every year, the University receives funding from the Provincial Government to cover its operating expenses, including pension and benefit costs for employees. Employees also are expected to contribute to the plan - and we do. Every year," Morley said.

"However, over the past 10 years, while we have been steadily contributing to the plan, the University has not.  They've taken a contribution holiday. Not once, not twice, but for most of the last 10 years. The University has taken over $28 million in contribution holidays," she said.

"Now there is a shortfall in the funding of our pension plan. Incredibly, the University wants us to increase our contributions, while it lowers its contributions. The University also is demanding steep cuts to our pension benefits. The workers did not create this problem, but the University wants us to pay to fix it.

We believe this is unfair and we have tabled an alternative proposal to help resolve the problem while minimizing the negative financial impact on our members."

Workers also are facing "the most hostile climate between our union and management that has ever existed on our campus," which coincides with the University's hiring of a new Director of Staff Relations, Morley said. 

"We want to assure students and parents that we are committed to finding a solution to our problems without a strike," she added. "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;
Tom Walsh, USW Staff Representative, 519-650-3405, twalsh@usw.ca.


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