Jason Vigilante, vice-president of CUPE 233 and maintenance worker at Toronto Metropolitan University, remains outside on strike with his coworkers and supporters.
CUPE 233 started their strike on April 17 after not being able to come to an agreement with Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) over wage increases and a pension dispute. CUPE 233 is made up of 112 custodians, groundskeepers and maintenance workers who are employed by TMU.
Vigilante says that the university offered a nine and a half per cent increase over three years for union wages, but he and members of CUPE 233 do not believe that it is enough. The last offer from the union was a 12 per cent increase over three years, says Vigilante.
Vigilante and his union are also asking for a say in their pension after finding out about a credit all TMU staff pay into but do not have access to.
“We feel like we should have a say with what goes on with our pension then we found out [TMU] started a credit in 2017 so any extra contributions goes into this credit that only belongs to them,” says Vigilante. “All of us are paying the university for a credit that only belongs to them, I don’t think it’s fair for the union or anyone paying into this pension.”
In a update by TMU released April 24 they say that they want to go back to the “bargaining table.” While still disagreeing about wages TMU says they are in agreement over the pension situation.
“With regard to pension, the university has offered CUPE 233 greater transparency and decision making powers while maintaining the language regarding equal contribution that has been in place for at least 30 years. It’s important to note that the university agrees with our unions that there should not be a two-tiered pension plan. Pension equity is a priority for this university with all employee groups,” says TMU.
In support of the strike, Shiraz Vally, labour relations officer at the Toronto Metropolitan Faculty Association, joined the protest in solidarity.
“[CUPE’s] fight is the fight all of us on campus share in,” says Vally. “I felt concerned about 233 because going on strike is not fun, it’s tough and I’m sure they would rather be working and going home at normal times but I also felt happy for them and proud to know them for standing up for themselves.”
The strike has also gained support from the student body. Azriel Kerbel, a student and member of the TMU Socialist Fightback branch, joined the protest.
“As socialist we believe that workers make the world run and so any attack such as this is an attack on the workers, so we believe we have to be out supporting the workers in solidarity until their demands are met,” Kerbel says.
The strike is set to go on until further notice.
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