By Ramisha Farooq
After 16 weeks of unsuccessful negotiations, the Continuing Education Students Association of Ryerson (CESAR) and local 1281 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) have reached a collective bargaining agreement, which will bring full-time staffers back to work.
Threatened with the idea of an Unfair Labour Practices hearing with Ontario’s Labour Relations Board, CESAR returned to the bargaining table Jan. 28 after a long hiatus with a new bargaining agreement put in place Jan. 31.
“The lockout was necessitated by the need for greater flexibility with respect to the assignment and performance of duties at CESAR by its employees,” Shinae Kim, president of CESAR, said. “CESAR has accomplished [the] objective.”
CUPE 1281 filed an application to the labour board last October.
The application was pending until both sides worked out an agreement at the board’s office.
Though the new agreement is not significantly different than previous proposals, full-time staff can now return to providing students with services, like discounted metropasses.
“We’re super pleased. We’re very happy to see our staff back at work,” said Saira Chhibber, president of CUPE 1281. “It was good to finally get something on the table and settle in good faith.”
During the course of the lockout, the Ryerson Students’ Union stopped providing discounted metropasses to thousands of CESAR members.
CESAR executives considered providing the metropasses through the CESAR office.
“We must remember that lockouts have harmful repercussions for students and the broader movement for social justice in Canada, in which student unions and labour unions are proud partners,” Chhibber said in a press release.
CESAR locked out its two fulltime workers on Sept. 30 after weeks of unsuccessful discussion between CESAR executives and their staff on the topic of wage increases to a “cost-of-living standard.” One of the two full-time workers had apparently been on a wage freeze since 2010, but preferred not to be quoted.
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 per cent Agreement” or face the potential lockout.
Several rallies were held by CUPE 1281 outside the Student Campus Centre (SCC) and the CESAR office. The most recent on Oct. 28, had union members bringing a cake stating that “CESAR took the cake” as the worst employer ever.
“Our members are just glad to be back in the workplace,” said vice-president of CUPE 1281, Michael Yam. “This is a positive result. It’s the outcome we’ve been hoping for.”