By Adrian Morrow
Associate News Editor
The Ryerson Students’ Union might soon burn through its legal budget, which would force the RSU to slash funding from programs and services.
The legal problems are being caused by a surge in staff grievances, which can be costly to resolve.
The RSU has received at least 13 grievances since May, compared to just one over the last two years.
“If the current trend continues, we will be faced with a deficit,” said Chris Drew, RSU’s VP Finance and Services. “I’m looking at the numbers, I’m looking at the trends and I’m very worried.”
The RSU’s full-time staff is unionized by Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). If they have a problem with the RSU, they can file a grievance.
If the problem isn’t solved by the RSU, the two sides have to use costly arbitration.
The cost of a single day of arbitration is $10,000 to $15,000 – almost the entire legal budget of the RSU.
“I recommend that no other grievance go to arbitration,” Drew said.
Several disputes have already been sent to arbitration, though the process hasn’t started yet, said RSU President Nora Loreto.
The RSU is mired in bitter infighting, with Loreto clashing with VP Student Life and Events Abe Snobar and several other members on the board over everything from equity funding to the RSU’s involvement in the Canadian Federation of Students.
She said that the fighting has taken its toll on the student union’s paid staff.
“Staff morale is at an all-time low,” she said.
Loreto declined to give any further details, as RSU’s staffing issues are generally confidential.
Dawn Murray, CUPE shopsteward and the RSU’s health and dental plan administrator, wouldn’t comment on the grievances either, referring all questions to Loreto.
CUPE local 1281 represents 12 full-time staff members at the RSU.
Part-time staff aren’t unionized.
Meanwhile, the RSU rehired a former employee who is still threatening legal action against the union.
Rebecca Rose, a former RSU president, was hired as the events co-ordinator for the Working Students’ Centre, an RSU-backed advocacy and activist organization. Last July, she was fired from the centre for calling Snobar an “asshole” during a heated political discussion.
Snobar fired Rose without following the usual proceedings, which would have involved consulting with her immediate supervisors, so she retained a lawyer.
She’s still pursuing legal action, but couldn’t give any details, saying only that she was hoping it would be resolved soon.
“I’m glad the RSU saw that they made a mistake,” she said.
She wasn’t worried about having to return to the RSU, as she won’t have to deal with Snobar directly.
“I really love my work and I had to leave a lot of things in the lurch,” she said. “I started my work with the RSU through the service groups.”
For his part, Snobar said he wasn’t informed of her rehiring until a few days after she was hired back.