Union jobs swept away?
This piece is updated from the initial story published in print on January 14th, 2016.
Photo Credit/ Fraser Allan Best
As reported in our January 14 print edition, the newspaper received a report from a source in the labour movement claiming that U of T plans on contracting out custodial work at some of its buildings, including those in the Faculty of Music and Faculty of Law. Service workers, including janitors, are currently represented by CUPE 3261. We were further informed that by contracting out these positions, U of T could possibly avoid doling out union-level pay and benefits. Amongst other things, this means these workers will not get partial-tuition relief for their children, a standard benefit for U of T employees.
UofT has since responded, confirming that it has hired outside contractors for work at Falconer Hall, Flavelle House, the Edward Johnson building, the new Bora Laskin Law library and 39 Queens Park; but also noting that no UofT custodian has lost their job in this move and that the contract labourers are unionized.
UofT news and media relations director Althea Blackburn-Evans added "As a public institution, U of T is duty bound to deal effectively with cost pressures and deliver services in the most efficient way possible."
This is not the first time CUPE service work positions have been contracted out on a campus. In September 2015 the University of Windsor contracted out janitorial service at six of its buildings. While no employees were fired, their CUPE (local 1001) president Jeff Martin denounced the move as part of a long term plan “to completely get rid of [the unionized staff].” Indeed, in 2013 the university contracted out janitorial staff at four other buildings.
Martin believes the only thing keeping many of his members employed is that their current contracts have not yet expired, and fears that the trend towards de-unionization will be accelerated during the local’s next round of bargaining. Windsor Communications director John Coleman has said he can’t comment on the future of the positions, and broadly attributes the contracting-out to budget prioritization.
This struggle is not new to the city of Toronto either. In 2012, Rob Ford lost a vote 29-12 to keep oversight over contracts out of council’s hands after a spar with city councillor and former cleaner Ana Bailão. Ford did, however, manage to push for janitorial work at some police stations to be contracted out, at the expense of CUPE 79.
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