By Ramisha Farooq
On the morning of Sept. 30, Ryerson University’s Continuing Education Students’ Union (CESAR) locked out its two full-time staff positions after unsuccessful collective bargaining negotiations.
These were both senior staff members.
The lockout was triggered early Sunday morning after weeks of futile discussion between CESAR executives and their staff on the topic of wage increases to a “cost of living standard.”.
“We don’t understand why this is being pushed to a lockout. This is a totally achievable agreement,” said Mary-Joe Nadeau, service coordinator for CUPE 1281, the trade union representing all full-time staff at CESAR.
“Our members want to go back to work.”
The former collective bargaining agreement (CBA) mediated between an CESAR and its employees, regulating the terms and conditions of employees in their workplace, their duties and the duties of the union.
Nadeau has claimed that both groups were only $2000 apart from making an agreement but, CESAR was not in favour of arbitration.
“We want to be at the bargaining table,” said Nadeau. “It’s really disturbing and disgusting to see a students’ union locking out the employees.”
The previous CBA expired in 2011.
During the initial negotiation period between the two parties, the two remaining full-time unionized office staff were presented with a choice, either accept a “0% Agreement” or face the potential lockout.
A rally, hosted by CUPE 1281, had already been planned prior to the lockout by workers t to raise awareness about the workers’ demands.
The rally included free pizza, music and speeches from different members of CUPE 1281 and some workers.
But, only a few hours after it began, someone inside the building, made a call to Toronto police services stating that there were picketers both inside and outside the building disrupting a CESAR general members’ meeting.
CESAR’s website stated, in a message from union president Shinae Kim, that everyone entering and exiting the building was supposed to “respect the picket line.”
Since the beginning of August, the union has made two different offers. Since then, demands have been reduced down to one main objective: increased wages.
CUPE 1281 rally organizers had booked out the Gould Street space with building management and the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), who manage the space, several weeks in advance.
“The cops have said we’ve done nothing wrong,” said CUPE 1281 president, Saira Chhibber.
The full-time staff at CESAR provide students with services such as different social justice campaigns and academic advocacy.
Though Kim disagreed, Nadeau mentioned that part-time and continuing education students may lose access to all health and dental assistance.
“It’s like you wake up one morning and your benefits are gone,” said Nadeau.
CUPE 1281 members were told that CESAR might hire cheaper labour until a new agreement can be reached.
However, it is not yet clear how they plans to bring students their services with the loss of its workers but, have stated that in the event of a strike or lockout, the Board of Directors will make all necessary plans to continue operating CESAR’s services for its membership.
One of the two remaining members still working at CESAR has been on a wage freeze since 2010, but preferred not to be quoted.
“I don’t expect there to be any delays in student services,” said Kim.
“We haven’t had any help in the past six months and we’ve done fine.”
There is still no timeline for further negotiations between CESAR and its workers.
“We are not going to sign an agreement that doesn’t offer flexibility of our operations,” said Kim about the proposed agreement. “It’s very one-sided.”