It’s Our University Too – Campus Unions working together

Over the past few years, there has been an effort by all campus unions to work together and demonstrate solidarity culminating most impressively in the “It’s our University too” rally that brought to everyone’s attention concerns that we have all had with the increasing privatization of services and corporatization of campus.  The recent decision to remove Aramark management of custodial services might be seen as a result of the message getting through to the University, although it’s clear that the mounting number of grievances and skyrocketing sicktime had a role to play in that decision.  In response to the rally, President Barnard extended an invitation to engage in dialogue with the unions.  Along with representatives from UMFA, AESES, CAW, GSA, UMSU, and CUPE 1482, CUPE 3909 President Ana Vialard Hart and VP Unit 1 (Student Academic Workers) Rachel ten Bruggencate had the opportunity to meet with President David Barnard and other administration representatives on June 14, 2013 to discuss member concerns.

CUPE 3909 brought three concerns to the table:

  • The International College of Manitoba (ICM)’s presence on campus, specifically their use of publically funded University infrastructure and non-unionized workforce.  We requested that the University not limit the Senate’s upcoming review of ICM to the academic programs, and include as well working conditions and the conflict created by outsourcing unionized work.
  • The disproportionate burden brought to bear on CUPE 3909 members, who are primarily hired through discretionary funds, by the Government of Manitoba’s scaled back funding of the University of Manitoba
  • Campus accessibility issues stemming from events at Investor’s Group Field, especially lack of casual parking during evening, weekend, and summer events, during which CUPE 3909 members are more likely to be on campus.  Although some efforts have been made to accommodate employees and students with temporary parking passes, these passes have been badly advertised and even denied to our members.

The response from the administration was mixed.  ICM’s presence and conduct on campus was characterized as the result of binding contracts signed prior to David Barnard’s tenure at the university.  The effects of budget cuts on CUPE 3909 members were said to be the result of decisions made at the unit, rather than university level.  Promises were made to address event-day accessibility, with the administration assuring our representatives that ample parking in the centre-east portion of campus and access through King’s Drive would be made available to employees working on game-days.

In spite of this mixed success, the spirit of the meeting was one of openness and a desire to build a working relationship between the campus unions and campus administration.  The CUPE 3909 executive is grateful to David Barnard and the other administration representatives present for the opportunity to present our concerns.  We hope that this meeting marks the beginning of an era in which union action against changes on campus is replaced by union input into the processes that bring them about.  Until that happens, we remain committed to voicing our opposition to University innitiatives that negatively affect our members and their working conditions.