The University of Toronto recently informed us that they will begin contracting out caretaking services in 16 buildings across the St. George Campus, including Robarts, Rotman, OISE, Innis, and others. Many caretakers have already been updated of the situation by their supervisors. The union has been aware for a few days now, and is updating you now after waiting for more details to roll in.
In order to facilitate this process, U of T will be transferring many of our caretakers to new buildings to be replaced by contract workers as of Monday, August 17th.
As some of you may already know, this move is permitted under our collective agreement. The language has existed for years, and the employer has insisted on maintaining this right despite the union’s attempt to prohibit it during every round of negotiations.
However, this does not mean any of our members will lose their jobs. Our job security is guaranteed by the collective agreement, and the employer cannot replace you and your colleagues with contracted out workers.
This practice is not without precedent. Despite our ongoing opposition, U of T constantly contracts out work that is normally done by our members (i.e. within caretaking, security, and even food services). A few years ago, U of T embarked on a policy of attrition, where they would wait for our caretakers to retire until a building was empty enough to be replaced by contract workers. During this time, we mounted a campaign to end this practice, and fortunately we have not seen this practice for two years now.
However, because of COVID-19, U of T is looking to ramp up its caretaking operations across campus. Instead of hiring CUPE 3261 members, U of T is looking at cutting costs by hiring low-paid workers who will have no benefits and inadequate union representation.
We have already protested this move by asking U of T to hire CUPE 3261 workers. For example, we already have many food service workers who are laid off waiting to come back to work, as well as a large pool of casual workers who have little to no hours as it is. We also informed U of T that even if they require workers for a short period of time, they can hire additional temporary CUPE workers, who would at least have access to decent wages and benefits. Although U of T told the union that it will “consider” these options, they immediately moved forward with their plan and informed supervisors the very next day.
At a time when so many of us are facing income insecurity, U of T’s plan to hire low-paid workers serves to only worsen our collective situation. Instead, U of T has an opportunity to offer high-quality employment to both our members and the broader community. If U of T truly cared about maintaining good working conditions, health and safety, and creating a high quality work environment, they would not contract out our work to private companies.
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We will continue our negotiations with U of T, but more importantly, we will begin organizing a campaign to demand U of T end its unjustifiable practice of contracting out. We simply cannot allow U of T to normalize low-wage work. By hiring CUPE 3261 members, workers will have access to good benefits, decent wages, and have a strong union that advocates for them.
But this all means we will need your support. All of us need to be ready to support one another, whether it’s something as simple as signing the petition, or when the time comes, coming out to rallies or pickets. U of T will not budge unless we act, and our president or executive cannot do it alone. We need to do this together.
If you have any further questions, you can contact us by email or phone.
CUPE 3261 Executive