Labour disputes are common at Canadian universities. And when they happen, student unions often take the side of the workers. But at Simon Fraser, the dispute isn’t between the university and a labour union — it’s between the labour union and the student union itself.
The Simon Fraser Student Society locked out its unionized office workers on Monday. The sticking point is wages — $30.48 per hour on average — which the Student Society wants to lower by as much as $10 per hour, according to a union representative. The average hourly wage for all Canadians aged 25 to 54 in June was $24.71 in June, according to Statistics Canada.
At $700,000 per year, The Student Society says the wages are so high that they’ve been forced to cut funding to student groups and to eliminate a $10,000 bursary.
But CUPE 3338, which represents the employees, says the wages are comparable to those of workers at other student societies and to university employees who do similar work. On top of that, unlike university employees, the workers don’t have pensions or long-term disability plans. “They’re not over-paid, as the employer likes to suggest,” said CUPE agent John Bannister.
Both sides claim they’ve been working hard to obtain an agreement. “We came to the table with a very modest package,” said Bannister, “and we even cut that back in an effort to reach an agreement.” The Student Society said in a press release that “the Union has been less than willing to compromise.”
President Jeff McCann did not respond to a request for an interview in time for publication of this article.