By Don McHoull
Campus union representatives are outraged after receiving notice last week that they are going to be evicted from their Jorgenson Hall offices by the end of this month.
“It’s just another attack on the ability of unions to carry out their jobs,” said Stephanie Blake, president of OPSEU local 596. “It’s limiting the access to the unions, that’s the problem.”
OPSEU, which represents non-teaching support staff, and CUPE, which represents part-time instructors, are being moved from their offices on the first floor of Jorgenson Hall to a smaller space on the fourth floor of the business building.
Linda Grayson, vice-president administration and student affairs, said the move was necessary because the admissions and liaisons department needed more space.
“The staff simply cannot work in the environment that they are currently in,” said Grayson.
Blake acknowledges that the university needs more space, but says taking away union offices is the wrong way to go about it.
“It doesn’t give them that much space,” said Blake. “But the space they’re moving us to is totally away from two-thirds of our members.”
Both unions have already filed grievances with the university that they are prepared to pursue to the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
CUPE local 3904 president Donald Elder said that way the unions were informed of the eviction is an indication of how little respect the university has for unions.
“It was sprung on us without any notice,” he said. “It wasn’t a very collegial thing to do, that’s for sure.”
Seven nearby offices were vacated this summer when the school of disability studies moved to the newly-built Sally Horsfall Eaton Centre. Those offices, as well as the two union offices, are slated to be turned over to the admissions and liaisons department.
Grayson disagrees that being relocated to the business building is that much of a hardship.
“I can’t believe that anybody would seriously say that the business building is off the beaten path,” she said. “The whole world does not centre around Jorgenson Hall. The business building is only a three minute walk away.”
Angela Ross, staff rep for CUPE, wondered if the university might have another motivation for the eviction.
“It’s really interesting that we got this announcement four days after we notified human resources that we were launching a drive to organize teaching assistants,” she said.
The new offices will be in a converted classroom, which will be divided in half with a partition
Ross said that under CUPE’s 1995 collective agreement with the university, the union is entitled to 175 square feet of office space, but Grayson disagreed.
“There’s nothing in the collective agreement that says certain number of square feet have to be provided,” she says.