Students gather for a rally outside the Student Campus Centre (SCC). PHOTO: COURTESY RYERSON STUDENTS’ UNION

Union workers threatened by potential CESAR lockout

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By Yara Kashlan 

A rally will be held outside the Student Campus Centre on Sept. 30 to inform students and faculty about a possible lockout of Ryerson’s Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR) workers.

“We are trying to make it a fun event although it is a stressful situation,” said Saira Chhibber, president of CUPE local 1281, the union that represents CESAR workers.

Currently workers are facing the threat of possible wage cuts and pay freezes.

Workers are responsible for organizing student campaigns geared towards student rights and equity, discount TTC metropasses, legal help and health and dental plans.

CESAR represents over 16,000 students in continuing education, distance education and part-time programs at Ryerson.

After walking away from the bargaining table, CESAR’s board of directors has decided to use the threat of a lockout to pressure em- ployees to accept its terms.

“The lockout is what they [CESAR] are hoping will make us settle,” said Chhibber.

Two full-time unionized office staff at CESAR have been presented with a choice, either accept a “0% Agreement,” or face a poten- tial lockout.

Chhibber said there is nothing written about what exactly the “0% Agreement” means, however, there is a verbal understanding that there will be no raise, and even a potential cut to the wages. Chhibber said they are also using the lockout threat to pressure employees into accepting the changes.

A conciliator became involved as a result of the unsuccessful bargaining between the two sides. This process was in accordance with the requirements set out in the Ontario Labour Relations Act.

Conciliation is the process in which a third-party, independent conciliator attempts to help the parties reach an agreement. In this case, it was not successful.

“Since the beginning of August, the union has made two offers. Since then, our demands have been reduced down to one main objective and that is fair wages for the members,” said Chhibber.

CESAR has chosen not to bargain with their staff on a collective agreement.

“The key point is that students are getting their services, that’s why we don’t want a lockout or to go on strike,” said Chhibber. Melissa Palermo, president of the RSU will also be attending the event.

“It is important to encourage the union to come to an agreement so that staff, workers and members are not affected negatively,” said Palermo in response to the potential lockout.

She added that getting the conflict resolved is important.

“Students and workers should be united. It is important to have a good relationship with the workers,” said Palermo.

There is no decision made as of yet on whether there will be a lockout or not, but Chhibber said it’s not what they want to resort to.

“They [workers] have been stuck in an awkward situation. Despite what is going on, they have continued to do their job, that’s what they want,” said Chhibber.

Despite multiple attempts to contact her, CESAR president Shinae Kim has not commented on this issue.

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