A group of Simon Fraser University students protested the lockout of unionized campus staff by occupying a student union board office today (September 27).
SFU student Chelsea Mackay said she was disturbed by the decision of the Simon Fraser Student Society board of directors to lock out a group of Canadian Union of Public Employees workers in early July.
“It locked out a lot of services that I use such as the Women’s Centre and Out On Campus, which is the campus queer centre,” Mackay, a spokesperson for the student protesters, told the Straight by phone.
“We as students want our student services back and with this occupation we plan to put pressure on the board to go back to bargaining and end the lockout. From here, if it doesn’t end today, we will keep on going.”
Mackay said around 15 students staged the sit-in inside the undergraduate student society’s office on the SFU Burnaby campus, describing the action as civil and non-violent. It started at 1 p.m. and the student protesters plan to stay until 1 a.m. tomorrow, she said.
Simon Fraser Student Society president Jeff McCann stood by the board’s decision to lock out the group of employees, who have been without a contract since summer 2009.
“We feel that the lockout’s the best thing right now in our negotiations. We’re waiting for a counter proposal still from the union,” he told the Straight by phone.
“We’re more than willing to either go to mediation or just go back to the table but we’re waiting for them, so as soon as they give us a counter proposal we can continue bargaining.”
McCann said he is open to talking with concerned students about the labour dispute.
“To make the statement ‘end the lockout’ I think you’re ignoring all of the different components that have led to this labour dispute and the things that have led to the labour dispute continuing. And so I’d much prefer to have a 12-hour dialogue than a 12-hour sit-in and I’m happy to do so.”
A CUPE spokesperson has told the Straight the union wants to return to the bargaining table but that can’t happen during a lockout.