Emergency RSU BoD meeting addresses layoff of 5 staff members, upcoming strike

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By Alexandra Holyk, Heidi Lee and Libaan Osman

The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) held an emergency Board of Directors (BoD) meeting on Wednesday evening to discuss the layoff of five full-time staff and whether to support the All Out September 30 (AOS30) Strike

The RSU’s fifth meeting of the year was called by Board of Governors (BoG) student representative David Jardine and Faculty of Arts director Alexandra Nash. 

Here’s what happened at the latest RSU BoD meeting:

Motion to extend full-time staff layoff recall period: TABLED

In May and June, the RSU temporarily laid off five full-time staff members due to concerns about low enrolment numbers and lack of work, according to the details of the motion and an email from RSU president Ali Yousaf obtained by The Eyeopener. However, Ryerson’s BoG confirmed that student enrolment remains relatively the same for the 2020-21 year.

“One of our primary fiduciary obligations is to make sure that the RSU’s financials are in good standing,” the email reads. “With this in mind, the executive team has been making every effort to save money on all fronts.”

The positions included the RSU’s events coordinator, CopyRITE printing service manager, Good Food Centre coordinator, campus groups coordinator and the graphic designer and coordinator. According to the email, campus groups coordinator Dawn Murray and graphic designer and coordinator Vanessa Lee were reinstated part-time with reduced hours.

The agreement between the RSU and its staff members states there is a four-month period during which those who are temporarily laid off still have access to their benefits, according to one of the individuals who was laid off.* Once the four-month period is up, their temporary layoff becomes permanent and they lose their benefits, they told The Eye.

In July, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1281 released an open letter addressed to the RSU calling on them to restore student services and reinstate its employees. 

“CUPE 1281 sees these layoffs as very problematic as we recently supported the RSU in their legal battle against Ryerson University, which the RSU won,” the letter reads. “Now seeing the RSU cut full-time unionized positions is beyond frustrating.”

CUPE 1281 also started a petition in support of the demands.

In an Instagram direct message days before the emergency BoD meeting, Yousaf told The Eye that “each of the five positions will be dealt with separately on a case-by-case basis.”

“The management team will be looking at the demand for work that each position brings in and incorporate that into the decision-making process,” Yousaf added. “At this moment, it is with regret that I inform you that we don’t have any further information on this particular topic.”

During the meeting, the motion was discussed in-camera—executive director Reanna Maharaj said it’s a “confidential HR” matter. According to Yousaf, it was tabled until January when the campus is expected to reopen.

Motion to support the All Out September 30 strike: PASSED

According to the AOS30 Facebook page, the campaign is organized by “a group of Indigenous, Black and Racialised student leaders and allies from campuses across the Greater Toronto Area” to call for a province-wide student strike against racism in Canada.

Jardine put forward this motion. They said they are not involved with the campaign, but they think it has clear demands, adding that putting this on the agenda could educate more Ryerson students on issues surrounding anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism. 

“The momentum [that we saw in the Black Lives Matter movement] is kind of sadly and slowly dying so it is really great to see that there is an initiative to reignite that spark,” they said. 

The campaign has listed five demands on their social media so far: providing free and accessible education for all, recognizing and implementing Orange Shirt Day in institutions, defunding the police and cops off campus, removing the Egerton Ryerson Statue and the implementation of race-based data collection at institutions province-wide. 

During the meeting, Yousaf asked if Jardine knew who is organizing the strike campaign. He also said he didn’t know what kind of protest it is—in-person or remote—and what AOS30’s demands are. 

Jardine responded that they sent an email about the campaign with its social media to the board at 11 a.m. the day prior to the meeting. They were concerned that members were looking up information about the AOS30 during the meeting. 

“I purposely wanted people to be informed on the campaign,” they said. “Quite honestly not supporting this is the RSU choosing not to support Black and Indigenous students.”

In an email to The Eye, AOS30 said it hasn’t revealed a lot of information about the organizers “mostly due to the fact it is initiated by a large collective of people”— there is no specific leader or organization leading this strike.  

Other updates

The RSU’s plans for the fall semi-annual general meeting were briefly mentioned during the BoD. 

RSU vice-president operations Liora Dubinsky said she is still looking at how the RSU can hold this large-scale meeting effectively and whether they should host it on Zoom or another platform. 

“We’re aware that [the RSU] missed last year’s winter [annual general meeting] so this is definitely on the agenda and [a] priority.”

Dubinsky said an update will be provided when the board has come up with a clear plan. 

The RSU also entertained introducing a board portal in their meetings for voting and moderating by the chairperson, an idea proposed by Jardine.

Jardine said switching to a board portal would organize everything BoD members need for a meeting, including the agenda and the minutes recorded in real-time. It would help members navigate information easier, especially now that all meetings happen over Zoom.

Jardine said there was a portal that the RSU could potentially use for about $1,000. 

Yousaf said he’ll discuss this idea with the RSU’s governance committee and bring it back to the board.

Shoaib Ahmed, the chairperson for this BoD meeting, said he is fine with the current meeting system and would rather the RSU reduce its spending “in these difficult times.”

The next BoD meeting has not been scheduled, obviously.

DISCLAIMER: David Jardine is a volunteer writer with The Eye’s fun and satire section. 

*Source was granted anonymity due to job concerns surrounding confidentiality.

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