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November 5, 2012

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SFU refuses to engage at contract talks

RICHMOND—CUPE came to the table with a mediator and determination to reach a collective agreement - they left empty handed.  A full weekend of mediated bargaining with Vince Ready never got past the university’s fixation with its own pension problems, according to CUPE Local 3338 president Lynne Fowler. 

“This is extremely disappointing,” says Fowler, who represents more than 1,000 support workers at SFU. “After 2½ years we finally coaxed the university to the table and they still refuse to negotiate in good faith for a contract settlement. All they wanted to talk about was their pension problems – and we don’t even have a mandate to make changes to the pension plan at our bargaining table.”  No further talks have been scheduled. TSSU teaching assistants’ talks this weekend also failed to reach a deal with SFU.

Fowler reports that even though the union stayed at the table until late last night, they left with no progress to report. “We gave the employer a proposal to settle our collective agreement, and we are still waiting for their response to that proposal.” All the other universities have already negotiated settlements with CUPE workers including UBC, UNBC, UVic and Thompson Rivers (only one other local - CUPE local 2278 representing teaching assistants at UBC, is still on strike).

CUPE 3338 job action continued over the weekend (see photos) with pickets on Saturday and Sunday at SFU Harbour Centre and Woodward’s in downtown Vancouver. CUPE 3338 shared the picket lines with striking TSSU teaching assistants. Other CUPE locals and unions also showed up for support picketing. While some people crossed the picket lines at SFU/Goldcorp arts facility performances, many refused to cross or demanded a refund.

Meanwhile, SFU faculty members have come out in strong support of the CUPE and TSSU job actions.  In an open letter more than 50 faculty members say: “We, the undersigned SFU faculty members, are in solidarity with the TSSU and CUPE in their struggle for better working conditions. The workers represented by TSSU and CUPE deserve a better deal—they deserve better working conditions, they deserve a better wage, and they deserve more respect from their employer for the work they do. And they deserve a real contract, having been without one for two years now.”

The letter goes on to say: “The TSSU and CUPE struggle is a struggle against (this) austerity. It is more than a demand for better wages for the unions’ members; its aim is more than better working conditions. Its aim is for a better university, a university worthy of being called a place of higher education. It is a demand for a university that is truly engaged in the world and that is a truly engaging place to work and teach and learn. In other words, TSSU and CUPE's struggle is a struggle that concerns every member of the SFU community and we should all, wholeheartedly, support and engage in this struggle.”

In light of the university’s failure to engage over the weekend, CUPE 3338 members say they are meeting today to plan their next moves.       

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