Staff union strike will have big consequences

There have been some “interactions” between administration and PSAC, said spokesperson Jeffrey Carleton. The mediator was involved.

(Andrea Bárcenas/AQ)
(Andrea Bárcenas/AQ)

“I expect there to be some more interactions this week and we will have to see how those develop,” he said.

Faculty members’ work will be “paralyzed” by a staff union strike, said faculty union president Mary Lou Babineau.

Although the faculty union supports the staff union, by law professors have to cross the picket line if there is a strike.

“[We] are obligated to work unless they feel their safety is in question,” said Babineau.

On Friday, members of staff union handed out fliers titled “Attention students! Worried how a STUSAU strike would affect you? STUSAU members serve students in hundreds of ways every day; we know the students and their needs. A contingency plan is not going to look after you, like the Support and Administration Union Members do on a daily basis.”

The fliers also listed each department (Admissions & Recruiting, Student Services, Registrar Services, Academic Advising, Athletics, Facilities, Faculty Course Support, Information Technology and Communications) and what each department does for students.

Then the flier listed specifically what won’t be able to do for students: “We will not be offering full Academic Advising services. We will not be coordinating Student Accessibility. We will not be processing student financial payments, though other staff will fill in, but expect delays. We will not be working to recruit new Canadian or International students. We will not be helping to prepare your letters of recommendation. We will not be doing residence maintenance. We will not be picking up the phone when you call or answering your emails.”

It was a surprise to see the fliers on Friday morning, said Carleton.

“We do have a contingency plan. It covers all of the areas mentioned in the flier,” he said.

Carleton said it was concerning to see students drawn into this.

“These things take on a dynamic of their own and once you start talking about a strike or once you talk about withdrawing… I’m always concerned of these things becoming inevitable.”

“It was a concern to see the flier. It was a concern to see students drawn into this. Those kinds of things don’t tend to work as a pressure tactic. The real progress is always made when you are interacting with the employer and the union.”

If the staff union doesn’t get a negotiated settlement before summer, some members fear for their jobs.

“The university could lay any one of us off for whatever reason they want at anytime,” said union and negotiating team member Alison Belyea.

That is why job security, along with sick leave and monetary, are the membership’s biggest issues.

“Every day, students rely on these services, and the work done by the support and administrative staff needs to be valued,” said fourth-year student and president of the Workers’ Union of St. Thomas University Ben Lord.

“I think that it’s important to note that at least 13 of STUSAU’s members are STU graduates,” said Lord. “St. Thomas administration is known to express their belief that there is value in a liberal arts education. They need to show that they value those workers who have it, as well as all workers who make this education possible.”

Carleton said if there is a strike students should expect classes and services by Aramark to continue.

“They can expect to see the continuation of their basic services and any routinely accessed service at St. Thomas.”

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