Staff union and administration back to the table

Jennifer Burry (Kehinde Akinsanya/AQ)
Jennifer Burry (Kehinde Akinsanya/AQ)

St. Thomas staff union and administration are finally back to the negotiating table. The meeting will take place on Feb. 28 between conciliator and the employer.

Union President Jennifer Burry said she’s not completely optimistic.

“This is the only date that we currently have set and we will certainly be looking for more dates in the near future,” she said. “What this means is that we have one day to talk about the current articles and hopefully set more dates in the immediate future.”

The staff union will be represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada and a provincial conciliation officer.

St. Thomas communications director Jeffrey Carleton said he expects the meeting on Feb. 28 to be an all-day session.

“This is the first time we have been back to the table with PSAC since December, so we’re looking forward to getting this process going again, and we’re open and hopeful for progress at that time.”

Carleton said he would not go into the details of the back and forth between the union and administration, but that in December the conciliator had decided it would be good to take a break from negotiations.

Before the date was set on Wednesday, the staff union members attempted to spread awareness and gain student support by handing out free cookies and information on slips of paper.

“We wanted to reassure the students that we don’t want to go on strike, that we want a fair and reasonable collective agreement. Some of the things we are looking for are health and safety, clear discrimination language and job security.”

Burry said the union members decided to put on the event to give students more information.

“We love our jobs and we love working with the students, and we wanted them to hear that.”

On the slips of paper, the students were asked to contact the post-secondary education minister Jody Carr and STUSU president Elizabeth Murphy to tell them students don’t want a strike.

Burry said the response of the event was positive.

“People loved the cookies and some of them were really shocked to hear that these were the things we were asking for,” she said. “It’s not like we are looking for money. We haven’t even talked about anything monetary. It is purely about our working conditions. And I think everyone deserves a fair and safe work environment. And that is what we are looking for.”

Burry said a strike would only occur if talks stop again and the conciliator calls for a vote.

“We are hoping to get back to the table for a significant time. A day here and a day there you can only accomplish enough. We’d like a week honestly. If we could get a week together, that would be wonderful. Imagine what we could accomplish.”

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