ST. CATHARINES, ON — After Brock University failed to make a wage offer that adequately reflects the contributions of its facilities management staff, members of Local 1295 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) are preparing to begin job action on August 22. The timing could mean a chaotic arrival and move-in for students arriving on campus before classes start.
“Brock is getting ready for its largest-ever intake of first-year students. Its funding is stable. Yet the university is choosing to nickel-and-dime its workers instead of making us a fair offer that would ensure uninterrupted services,” said CUPE 1295 President Ken McClelland.
“Brock’s final offer would leave facilities management workers falling further behind every year,” he continued. “With inflation running at 8%, we can’t let that happen. We will fight for a reasonable increase that reflects the value of the work our members do at the university every day.”
After months of negotiations, contract talks between Brock and the union broke down over the university’s refusal to offer more than 2.5% as a yearly pay increase for its 150 facilities management employees. The union is seeking 3.75%.
CUPE has calculated that meeting the union’s demand would cost Brock between $70,000 and $100,000 annually, out of a total operating budget of over $350 million.
McClelland pointed out that “the difference is less than 0.03% of the university’s budget. So why is Brock risking a smooth start to the academic year – not to mention the good will of an experienced and dedicated workforce – over what’s an insignificant amount for an institution of its size?”
Brock has approximately 150 permanent and casual facilities management employees, including custodians, groundskeepers, and skilled tradespeople. Overall, their wages and benefits account for only 2.4% of Brock’s total operating cost.
Since the COVID pandemic, students, their families and workers themselves are even more keenly aware of the role that facilities management plays in making Brock a safe place to learn and work.
“The university relies on the vital services we provide. That is why we’re determined to get a deal that reflects our value and shows respect for all our contributions.”
Last Friday, the Ministry of Labour issued a “no-board report,” which was made at CUPE’s request and which puts both parties in a legal strike or lockout position on August 22. Brock has agreed to a single additional bargaining date on August 19, when the union and Brock will meet in the presence of a mediator from the Ministry.
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