Who are we?
We belong to our Union - CUPE Local 3261. We are caretakers and service workers who have a collective agreement which provides living wages for the City of Toronto, health benefits, pensions and an eligibility to send our children to school at U of T if admitted. Our good collective agreement provides a ladder up for our children, when a University degree is basically a requirement for a job.
The University of Toronto is the largest & wealthiest post-secondary institution in Canada. In 2014, it had $2.7 billion in revenue and a net income of $204 million. Its Board of Governors has connections with some of the wealthiest companies in the world.
The total cost of the wages of our entire membership in 2014 was $25.5 million. This is 0.9% of the revenue ($2.7B) of the University: a drop in the bucket. Yet our wages are spent by us to help drive the economy in the communities where we live. Our wages helps our children go to school healthy. It keeps us from poverty in one of the wealthiest cities in the world.
Tuition fees and costs for professional programs like Dentistry & Law almost equal our annual salary.
On November 7, 2015, the University of Toronto started to use a contract cleaning company to clean buildings where our members have worked for decades. These buildings are related to the Faculties of Law and Music. On February 16, 2016, the Faculty of Dentistry building will be cleaned by the same contract cleaning company. These contract workers are paid $11.85 an hour for light duty work and $13.10 for heavy duty work. These are usually code words for paying women less money than men. These are not living wages.
Even though they have a collective agreement, their health and pension benefits are significantly lower than those afforded to U of T employees. They will not be able to give their children an opportunity to attend U of T on these wages and benefits.
Our Collective Agreement ensured our CUPE members in those buildings did not lose their jobs. They were placed in vacant positions which the University has not filled. These vacant positions mean labs and offices and rooms are cleaned less frequently for faculty and students. They mean fewer workers doing more work and increasing the likelihood of workplace injuries.
We are worried this decision to contract out cleaning work at the Faculties of Law and Music, followed only 3 months later by Dentistry is the beginning of a trend where building by building, department by department, the University will transfer even more of our work to contract workers with lower wages and benefits.
It is wrong for some of the lowest paid workers at the University to have to bear the brunt of the under-funding of public universities. President Getler himself recognizes the growing problem of a low wage economy for our City: “We see increasing income polarization, a growing gap between the rich and the poor.”
Many faculty at U of T study the issue of casual and precarious work, income inequality and poverty. Our Employer should be leading the living wage and good jobs campaign not contracting out work to private for-profit company with a low-wage strategy.