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Toronto – Administrative officials at the University of Guelph, whose pension fund has a solvency shortfall of $260 million, have told workers to open up their collective agreements or face the closure of their university, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario. 

“It seems the University of Guelph is taking a page out of the Chrylser play-book by blackmailing employees and threatening closure if they don’t open up collective agreements and give concessions,” says Sid Ryan, President of CUPE Ontario.  “Sorry.  Universities can’t just threaten to close if workers don’t bow down to their demands.   Making workers the scapegoats for the economic downturn is becoming all too frequent in both the private and public sectors.  It must stop.”

Ryan urged Premier Dalton McGuinty to caution university presidents to ensure no more officials make threats of this kind.  Ryan also called for more post-secondary education funding in the upcoming budget to better build the “knowledge economy”.

“University administrators are the ones who decided to take pension contribution holidays and skim money off surpluses, not workers,” Ryan says.  “But now they’re turning around and demanding workers roll back their wages and benefits to make up for their mistakes, as well as for chronic provincial underfunding.”

Janice Folk-Dawson, Chair of the CUPE Ontario University Workers’ Coordinating Committee (OUWCC), was present at the meeting where the threat was made to open up collective agreements to find savings, or face the university’s closure in 2010.

“University workers didn’t create funding shortfalls or mismanage our pension fund,” says Folk-Dawson.   “But we can suggest savings in other ways, such as creating a province-wide pension plan and a universal benefit plan.  It makes no sense to have 17 or more small pension and benefit plans.”
“We won’t accept governments and institutions evading responsibility and trying to force workers to pay the price for the economic downturn,” Folk-Dawson says. 

For more information:
Sid Ryan   President, CUPE Ontario   416 209 0066 (C)
Janice Folk-Dawson  Chair, OUWCC   519 766 8376 (C)
David Robbins   CUPE Communications  613 878 1431 (C)