CESAR faces labour charge in bitter battle


CUPE 1281 supporters brought a cake to the CESAR office at Ryerson’s Student Campus Centre as an invitation back to negotiations. (Diana Hall/Ryersonian Staff).

The trade union representing two full-time workers who have been locked out of their jobs at the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson says it has filed an unfair labour practices complaint against the beleaguered student union.

A representative of CUPE Local 1281 confirmed that CUPE National filed a complaint against CESAR with the Ontario Labour Relations Board on Oct. 11. The complaint cites five violations of Ontario’s  Labour Act.

Mary-Jo Nadeau, service co-ordinator at CUPE 1281, said the complaint rests on CESAR’s “unwillingness to come to the bargaining table” and “the way in which they represent the (two locked-out members) in the media … basically disciplining them in public, because they’re saying things like (the workers) don’t answer the phones (and) they don’t work.”

But according to an emailed statement from CESAR president Shinae Kim, the student union denies and “does not accept” CUPE’s accusation that CESAR’s bargaining operations have violated the Labour Act.

“The way that I see it is, I guess, that the union is just so desperate that they’re just doing everything that they can to try (to) slander executives and slander CESAR, and make this seem like something that it’s not,” Kim said.

“Just because somebody makes a claim against you doesn’t mean it’s valid or it’s right.”

The unfair labour practices claim still faces investigation, but it is the latest rift in the rocky relationship between CESAR and its full-time employees.

The two sides have stumbled through failed negotiations since their last collective agreement — which outlined terms of employment — expired in 2011.

As a result, CESAR’s two full-time staffers have been locked out of their jobs since Sept. 30.

Although the two sides insist they are willing and eager to reach a new collective agreement that will better serve continuing education students, they can’t seem to agree on a set of new terms — or who is at fault for the lockout in the first place.

Supporters of the two locked-out workers chanted and marched through Oakham Café up to CESAR’s office on the third floor of the Student Campus Centre just after noon on Monday.

The group of about 14 people paraded through the halls while carrying a cake coated in bright green icing to demand that CESAR return to the bargaining table and put an end to the lockout.

“They know they’re the side that has to respond because they’re the side that isn’t doing anything,” Nadeau argued.

CUPE’s labour practices filing, which claims CESAR hasn’t been bargaining in “good faith” and has been immoveable in negotiations, represents Nadeau’s criticisms of the student union’s lack of responsible leadership.

She said only two out of five elected executive positions on CESAR’s board have been filled, but Kim wouldn’t comment on the number of executive representatives CESAR employs. Nadeau said a particular source of tension among the parties’ respective leaders is that the union wants CESAR to hire a third worker to fill the long-vacant administrative co-ordinator position, whose responsibilities had fallen onto the two locked-out CUPE 1281 workers.

“What was the real issue (in negotiations) is that they want to remove one of the real bargaining positions from CESAR permanently,” Nadeau said.

“For us, that’s union busting. That’s like breaking the union (by) taking out a full-time position — and that’s where we’re stalled.”

Although Kim acknowledged that CESAR was “asking for the deletion of the (full-time administrative co-ordinator) position that has been vacant for over a year and a half,” she denied Nadeau’s claims that CESAR is unfairly refusing to bargain.

According to an email statement from Nadeau on Oct. 29, CUPE and CESAR are in talks to return to the bargaining table in the near future.

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