“We haven’t heard anything from the RSU about their intention to reinstate the workers, which is very concerning.”
A screenshot of the CUPE 1281 petition that was launched on Monday. (Paula Tran/Ryersonian)
CUPE 1281, the labour union that represents full-time employees at the RSU, launched a petition on Monday calling on the students’ union to restore student services.
The Change.org petition comes after CUPE 1281 published an open letter in July demanding the RSU reinstate five full-time employees who were laid off. These employees held the positions of campus groups co-ordinator, CopyRITE printing service manager, events co-ordinator, Good Food Centre co-ordinator and graphic designer co-ordinator.
“Since the turnover of the Ryerson Students’ Union on May 1, 2020, the RSU executive committee has slashed their services in half,” the petition reads. “A drastic decision made, without surveying their student membership.”
CUPE 1281 equity executive Alyssa Williams said that the RSU cited lack of work, low enrolment numbers and the pandemic as the reasons for the layoffs. According to Julie Zahab, Ryerson’s director of administration and special projects, the total number of undergraduate students entering a first year full-time program this year is 10,999. This is 2,306 more students than last year’s first-year class according to data provided by the University Planning Office.
Williams added that the RSU’s decision was concerning, in light of the pandemic creating a need for more resources and services.“If you have the enrolment numbers, you’re collecting fees from those students, so you have an obligation to provide services,” Williams said. “Your budget should be set at that point and you should already know what you’re going to be spending to give back to the membership. It almost makes me wonder what work (the RSU executives) are actually doing if they don’t have the support of the staff.”
The RSU emailed a statement to the Ryersonian in response to CUPE’s petition, saying that it is committed to the responsible use of students’ fees. The union said it has taken steps to temporarily reduce its workforce to “manage labour costs” because of a decreased demand for services. It also said that it is responding like many employers across Ontario. RSU president Ali Yousaf said that the union will recall its full-time employees from temporary layoffs once the demand for services returns.
Williams said that CUPE 1281 has since engaged in a “minimal amount of communication” with the RSU. She said that the union has filed grievances prior to the petition and that both parties have entered the arbitration process, but could not elaborate due to privacy concerns. She also said that the union hasn’t received a response to its concerns.
“We haven’t heard anything from the RSU about their intention to reinstate the workers, which is very concerning,” Williams said.
“Where possible, the RSU will attempt to offer part-time hours to impacted employees where work is still available on a less-than-full-time basis,” said the RSU’s statement. “Other employees may be eligible for federal government benefits in the meantime. The RSU’s executive (team), management team and certain part-time staff continue to work to advance the interests of Ryerson Students’ Union’s members.”