Union Solidarity at the University of Manitoba

February 18, 2013, 1:41 PM EST

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Six unions operating on the University of Manitoba campus united recently with one voice to speak out against the actions of university administration.

CAW Local 3007, The University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA), Canadian Union of Public Employees 1482 (CUPE), CUPE 3909, The University Manitoba Students' Union (UMSU) and the Association of Employees Supporting Education Services (AESES) held an information picket February 13. More than 500 protesters gathered to voice their concerns.

"This demonstration was about much more than protecting workers' rights, important as that is; it was about preserving the integrity of campus life and ensuring that quality education is available to future generations," said Frank Wright, CAW Local 3007 chairperson. CAW Local 3007 represents 450 members at the university including trades, power engineers, grounds keepers, food service workers and caretakers.

"Changes being made at the University of Manitoba are part and parcel of the broader attack on the public sector that is unfolding across North America," said Wright. "The effect of these measures is now becoming clear:  unionized workers feel their rights slipping away as employers find ways to circumvent collective agreements and build two-tier institutions that pit unionized workers against non-unionized workers; public-sector students against private-sector students; tenure-track faculty against sessional instructors."

CAW Local 3007 helped lead the way in forming this student /labour coalition at the University and all six unions work very well together, Wright said.

The University President responded to the recent demonstration by inviting us to attend a "town hall" meeting to continue the "dialogue" and we will take him up on this offer and hold him accountable, Wright said.

Our caretaking staff has been reduced and too few workers are now expected to do all the work, he said. Employees are berated and bullied and when employees complain, administration replies with a variety of excuses: private sector supervisors do not fall under the scope of university administration and, therefore, are not required to follow university protocols of personnel management; it claims that employees' issues do not qualify as grievances or that grievances were filed past the required time limits, when in fact extensions had been granted, he added.

Morale is at an all-time low; stress, anxiety and sickness are mounting and sick leave has increased over 350% for the caretakers, Wright said.

Local 3007 have been grieving, filing Human Rights complaints, filing University policy complaints and holding special meetings, area by area, to deal with the issues, he said.

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