July 10, 2016
For Immediate Release
WATERLOO – CUPE Local 926 informed Wilfrid Laurier University that it will direct its members, which represent approximately 110 custodial, grounds, and trades employees at Laurier’s Waterloo campus and Kitchener location, to withdraw their services and begin strike action starting at 8 a.m. on Sunday, July 10, 2016.
“The university is committed to reaching a settlement as quickly as possible, but any agreement must be in the best interests of the institution and its students,” said Jim Butler, vice-president: finance and administration. “I regret the disruption that a strike will cause for the university community. I believe that the university’s proposal was fair, and is consistent with proposals that CUPE has agreed to at a number of other Ontario universities. We remain eager to return to the table.”
The university remains open and operational. All other faculty and staff are expected to carry out their duties as normal. Information for faculty, staff and students is available on the university’s negotiations update website.
The key outstanding issue is the language around contracting out of custodial services in the proposed agreement.
- The university’s proposed agreement would ensure a sustainable and cost-effective model to deliver custodial services, while protecting the jobs of its current CUPE employees and allowing strategic investment in education.
- The university will only contract out when custodial positions become vacant through attrition or if additional resources are needed for new buildings. None of the university’s current CUPE employees will lose their jobs as a result of the university contracting out. In addition, the university will seek third-party contracts that provide predominantly full-time jobs with comprehensive benefits.
- CUPE has already agreed to the same contracting-out language at other post-secondary institutions in Ontario.
- Throughout the course of negotiations, the university proposed many options to CUPE to find operational efficiencies and ensure a sustainable business model without contracting out, which CUPE would not consider. It was only after exhausting all alternatives, and after CUPE’s refusal to consider any options that required modifying existing working arrangements or revised working conditions for new members, that the university had to focus on contracting out language through attrition and for growth.
As previously communicated to the union, the university will now implement the employment conditions of its final offer, which includes a 1.5 per cent retroactive pay increase to July 1, 2015 and a further 1.5 per cent increase effective July 1, 2016.
Progress of negotiations:
- The university negotiating team has tried to reach a settlement with CUPE since negotiations began in October, 2015. The parties have met 13 times since October, including five days with a conciliation officer from the Ministry of Labour and one day of mediation.
- The university provided the union with an offer for settlement on Jan. 28, 2016, which was rejected by the union bargaining team.
- At the university’s request, the Ministry of Labour issued a No Board report June 23 as Laurier wanted to keep negotiations moving forward. The issuance of a No Board report means that 17 days later, the university is in the position to implement the terms of its final contract offer and the union can choose to legally strike.
- The parties met with a provincially appointed mediator July 4 and the university presented a revised proposal in an effort to reach an agreement. The proposal offered grandparenting of the post-retirement benefits arrangement for current CUPE employees in an effort to reach an agreement and avoid strike action by CUPE, but it was rejected by the union bargaining team.
- On July 8, CUPE offered a counter proposal which asked the university to submit the proposed pension and benefits and contracting out language to binding arbitration. The university was not willing to submit language on contracting out and language that had already been tentatively agreed to on pension and post-retirement benefits to a third party arbitrator, which would place decisions about the university’s employees in the hands of a third party.
The university remains committed to reaching an agreement that is in the best interest of the university community and maintains Laurier’s focus on delivering an excellent academic environment and an outstanding student experience. The university will provide regular updates about the strike and efforts to resolve it.