Employees from Ryerson’s Continuing Education Student Association may be back to work as early as this week. Last September, CESAR executives locked out its full-time unionized employees after collective bargaining attempts failed.
Both parties settled on an agreement last Tuesday night, according to Saira Chhibber, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1281, which represents CESAR employees.
“Both parties met, and I am happy to say that after the four-month lockout, we have finally settled on an agreement,” said Chhibber.
Chhibber was unable to provide details about the new contract, but says the agreement will be finalized once both parties approve it. CESAR’s two unionized employees, who carry on the association’s administrative duties, ratified the new collective agreement last Friday.
The collective agreement between CESAR and the union expired in 2011. Until last Tuesday, the two parties had been bargaining back and forth for the last two years.
Chhibber said this past fall the CESAR executives walked away during negotiations and requested a no board report, which freezes employment for 16 days though bargaining may continue. After 17 days, employers can legally lock out employees.
CUPE 1281 filed an unfair labor practice complaint with The Ministry of Labor against CESAR executives on October 11, shortly after the lockout began. This lead to a hearing where both parties agreed to settle.
During the four month lockout, some services were withdrawn from student members. Student advocacy, one of CESAR’s primary services, was not offered to students during the lockout.
Staff also formed informational pickets and attended tabling events. Chhibber said staff received strike pay but were required to complete a certain amount of picket time each day to qualify. The amount is undisclosed, but she said it is “just a percentage of what they earn.”
She said the current agreement is “not substantially different from what was originally on the bargaining table the day the lockout began.” Chhibber said the union made it clear in the fall that there was “no desired monetary increase for employees. We put a zero percent pay increase on the table from the beginning.”
She said having CESAR’s full-time unionized staff back in the job is a relief for the workers. “Ultimately, both sides were happy to finally settle in good faith.”
Shenae Kim, President of CESAR, said in an email that services will continue to be provided by CESAR, including the discounted metropasses which were withdrawn from students in the midst of the lockout.
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on February 5, 2014.