By Keith Capstick
On April 1, the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) and the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR) signed a contract binding them together in staffing the RSU’s member services office and equity service centres.
A contract which the RSU president said has been a hindrance to the RSU’s day-to-day operations.
According to RSU president Andrea Bartlett and CESAR president Denise Hammond, this contract was the reason behind the delay in staffing the equity service centres earlier this fall, and has caused training for the members services office (MSO) and equity centre to be cancelled.
Both parties agree that all of this has resulted in a large disconnect in communication for the two unions who still remain contractually bound.
According to the contract, CESAR provides a total of $24,000 a year to the RSU. The MSO staff wages and benefits cost the RSU a total of $114, 259 according to their 2014-15 proposed budget.
The contract says that given their financial contribution to the hiring and upkeep of RSU part-time staff within the equity service centres and MSO, CESAR has an equal say in all decisions surrounding staffing.
According to Bartlett, this new amendment to the relationship means that if a hiring committee composed of RSU and CESAR representatives chose a candidate that CESAR executives decided they weren’t happy with, they would be able to restart the hiring process immediately.
“Currently, it’s the RSU staff who is working with CESAR and then catching the RSU up about decisions that are made,” said Bartlett. “I think that’s part in due to political conflicts that we’re experiencing this year. I’ve been told by my executive director that this is the first year that CESAR’s been this engaged with their hands in the cookie jar of the RSU.”
Hammond said that she’s confused by the conflict and lack of communication.
“I’m at a bit of a loss in terms of why the RSU doesn’t want to work with CESAR. I’m at a bit of a loss why the interest of students aren’t being put first,” Hammond said. “Regardless of what members of the RSU think of me personally there’s a larger issue here at play and that’s about providing good service to our members.”
Bartlett said that the contract was signed prior to her taking office as president and that she was not consulted during the negotiation process despite her role as incumbent president. She said if it was her decision to make, she would have acted differently.
“We are losing a lot of autonomy for our staff members which in fact makes it difficult for us to have legitimate decision-making authority,” Bartlett said.
CESAR contests that this new contract was merely the renegotiation of a dated agreement, in order to add MSO details into their pre-existing relationship after CESAR moved into the Student Campus Centre.
“There were some issues and concerns with the RSU, with how things were being run and organized last year,” said Hammond. “In a way to correct some of that, if this is really a joint service, we’re paying you money, so it’s a contract that should be somewhere written down.”
The contract aims to regulate proper behaviour between the groups — things like hiring decisions and operational decisions made by the RSU, according to Hammond.
“You want to ensure that everyone has full information, that hiring decisions are made by both parties,” said Hammond. “ [It provides assistance when dealing with] decisions made by the RSU to just close a member services office on a certain date or close early but never actually inform us so we can’t inform our own staff or our own members some basic things.”
Two weeks ago Bartlett says that she sent an email to Hammond informing her that the RSU would no longer be honouring their end of this agreement and that CESAR executive members were no longer invited to their annual MSO and equity service centre part-time staff training.
When the CESAR executive showed up to the training session, it was promptly ended by the RSU.
Since the abrupt end to the meeting Hammond says she’s received no formal documentation from the RSU looking to make amendments to the contract or their relationship.
“I received an email saying oh by the way you’re no longer entitled to come because this agreement is void and I promptly reported to say actually you’re misinformed,” said Hammond. “There’s no issue and more importantly if there is an issue and a concern as outlined in the agreement there’s a process to deal with that.”
As of right now there are no plans to reschedule the MSO and equity service part-time staff training and both sides say that they have no formal plans to work on their relationship contractually or personally.
“As far as CESAR’s concerned the contract is continuing on as usual despite us communicating that we didn’t want to participate in the contract. There’s been no next steps,” said Bartlett.