The leadership of the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) has announced a Sunday lockout of SFSS’s union employees, after two years of unsuccessful contract negotiations. Unless an agreement is reached by tomorrow afternoon, CUPE local 3338’s twenty employees will be barred from working their jobs.
Unsurprisingly, the two sides characterize the state of negotiations differently, with CUPE arguing that SFSS is demanding “dramatic wage rollbacks and cuts to staffing levels,” while SFSS president Jeff McCann says that the student society is asking for a 12% average pay cut, with about a quarter of that loss to be restored over the course of the new contract. (Edit: see comments for more details on the proposed cuts.)
Activists claim that this move is ideologically motivated, noting that newly-elected SFSS leaders announced the lockout simultaneously with an effort to evict the Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG) from student-owned offices.
I’ll be following this story as it develops, but I think one element that hasn’t yet received much attention is worth emphasizing — the timing of the lockout.
Now, I don’t know anything about what triggered this particular decision. It’s possible that there’s a compelling reason why this had to happen now. But as I’ve written many times before, summer is the season when university administrators traditionally launch their most obnoxious initiatives, on the premise that there aren’t any students around to object. If you want to pave a community garden, or eliminate a department, or create a new parking fee, or whatever, summer’s the time to do it.
Like I say, I don’t know why SFSS acted when it did. Maybe they had a good reason. But if they timed this lockout — and the SFPIRG eviction — to take place in July because they knew that their student opponents wouldn’t be able to mobilize … well, that’s just punk. It’s anti-democratic, and it’s anti-student. It’s wrong.