CESAR lockout makes staff feel ‘undervalued’

The Continuing Education Student Association of Ryerson (CESAR) locked out its two unionized employees Monday after collective bargaining negotiations fell apart.

“I received an email Sunday morning saying I was going to be locked out as of midnight,” said Estefania Toledo, one of the two workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1281.

Toledo has worked for CESAR for eight years, first as the internal co-ordinator and now as the student rights co-ordinator. Her duties include helping students with appeals and academic misconduct charges — responsibilities she said she takes pride in.

“Getting locked out is not a good feeling. You definitely feel undervalued as a staff member because basically your employer thinks that the work that you’re providing is not essential to students,” she said.

CESAR and the union have been without a collective agreement since 2011, and the two parties haven’t been able to agree on new terms.

CESAR says that it treated its employees fairly under the collective agreement.

“Getting locked out is not a good feeling. You definitely feel undervalued as a staff member because basically your employer thinks that the work that you’re providing is not essential to students.”

“During the duration of the collective agreement staff have enjoyed a 5.575 per cent wage increase each year without any performance evaluation,” Shinae Kim, president of CESAR, said in an email.

“And the most senior staff received 75 paid days off a year.”

But according to Toledo, there has been no wage increase since the collective agreement expired.

“My wage has been frozen for three years and they want to continue to do so.”

The union says it’s up to CESAR to decide how long the lockout lasts.

In the meantime, locked-out workers want students to contact the CESAR board and ask them to come back to the bargaining table so that employees can return to work.

All CESAR services continue as usual, but students may experience a delay in the advocacy service.

New business hours are Monday to Thursday, noon to 8:30 p.m.

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on October 2, 2013.

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