SFU students stage sit-in to protest student union staff lockout

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.



I call bs

Sep 27, 2011 at 6:31pm

It should be clear that bargaining has persisted throughout the lockout, hence calling the Board "back to the table" is a ridiculous statement.

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Evan Harding

Sep 27, 2011 at 7:15pm

One detail not mentioned in this story:

The members of the Board of Directors have voted to increase their honoraria for the duration of the lockout. They say they've got no money to pay their staff, but they're perfectly willing to give themselves a raise (and to continue collecting student activity fees despite offering drastically reduced services).

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Peter Driftmier

Sep 27, 2011 at 7:26pm

I am currently with the group of students doing this action. The Board wither does not know anything about negotiating with a union if they think they can technically wait for an offer from a locked-out bargaining unit, or they are simply lying to the public. Take a stance SFSS Board, knowingly lying? Or stupid?

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Sep 27, 2011 at 11:33pm

So they've voted to double their "honoraria" during this lockout to (as I've heard it $3500 per month), is that each member or total? What are they providing for this pay increase they've given themselves? How does this $1750 increase (each board member?) compare to keeping these union workers at work cost wise? What is the union considering "living wage" and "poverty wage"? There is a whole lot of BS rhetoric from both sides and not a great deal of tangible information. It seems the students staging this worthless "sit-in" could be putting themselves to better use.

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Sep 28, 2011 at 8:16am

How are the board members going to feel when the graduate SFU and can't find jobs, because all the decent jobs have been cut by people like themselves...?

Also, Jeff McCann is a goof. You don't lock out workers and then expect them to negotiate.

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Re: asdfe

Sep 28, 2011 at 10:33pm

There are employees that are locked out which have privately said they would agree to a deal SFSS is offering because it is reasonable and provides a very competitive wage. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place as CUPE has effectively taken over and made them feel criminal for thinking that way. CUPE is taking advantage of the situation because it is easy for them to make a large political stand with a few people then with a big organization.

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Anna N

Sep 29, 2011 at 9:36am

I think student politics (and politicians) are generally silly but when they mess with peoples wages, they should be slapped. hard. with a ruler.in the face. grow up people. stop robbing the society and get to work, you have 6 month to fix the mess you made.

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