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May 14, 2013

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SFU wage offer 'insulting'

CUPE 3338 members mark three years without a contract with cake – including slices delivered to the SFU administrationCUPE 3338 members mark three years without a contract with cake – including slices delivered to the SFU administration

BURNABY - Hopes for long overdue progress at the bargaining table at SFU were dashed yesterday when the university offered its CUPE workers wage increases 75% less than their counterparts at other BC universities have already received. The support workers have been without a contract for more than three years.

The "insulting" offer of 0.5% increases in the final two years of a four-year deal came at the first meeting in six months between SFU and CUPE 3338. The university spent those six months unsuccessfully fighting a BC Labour Relations Board ruling that it was bargaining in bad faith. At the centre of the unfair labour practices ruling was SFU's insistence on tying its troubled multi-party pension plan to CUPE contract talks.

SFU is the only public post-secondary institution in the province that has not signed a new contract with its CUPE employees. The sector-wide standard has been modest 0-0-2-2 percent wage hikes with no concessions (the zeros in the first two years reflecting the BC Liberal's Zero Wage Mandate for public sector workers).  

SFU Human Resources executive director Dario Nonis admitted yesterday at the bargaining table that rising costs associated with its pension plan and the administration's lack of "any certainty of how to deal with the pension problem" were factors behind the new lower wage offer. Six months ago SFU offered 2% wage hikes, tied to fixing the SFU Pension Plan (which the LRB ruled was bad faith bargaining).

"We had hoped that SFU president Andrew Petter and his bargaining team were returning to the table to wrap up this round of bargaining with a fair and reasonable collective agreement," says CUPE 3338 president Lynne Fowler, adding that "not only is 0.5 per cent far less than inflation - it's far less than even the BC Liberals approved everywhere else!"

"Now that they have put this insulting offer on the table we will have to study our options," says Fowler.

CUPE Local 3338 represents 1,000 clerical staff, computer operators, library assistants, technicians, lifeguards, financial aid advisors, building technologists, programmer analysts, buyers, stores clerks, information specialists, control clerks and resource specialists, schedulers and programmers at Simon Fraser University's three campuses.


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