For a campus that was heavily involved in protesting the proposed tuition increase, citing the injustice of asking cash-strapped students to pay more, Concordia students don’t seem to care that their own faculty and staff are still without a contract.
Many staff and faculty members showed up and spoke out during the 2012 tuition increase protests however, when these same staff and faculty gathered to protest their lack of settled contracts with the university on Sept. 3, students were nowhere to be seen.
Concordia cannot function without full and part-time teachers, support staff, library employees, administrators, facilities management staff and technicians. These people make Concordia what it is everyday and yet the university won’t concede to any of their requests. Therefore, they have had no pay increases, no added benefits, some for the last five years.
If these union workers decide to go on strike, students are the ones who are going to lose out. Classes will be canceled, halls will be dirty and the list goes on and on. Sufficient to say students should be extremely motivated to help the unions get their contracts but so far student associations have been silent.
On Sept. 3, while union workers were outside protesting, the CSU used their Facebook page to advertise their Open Air Pub and free breakfast rather than encourage students to participate. Other associations, like CASAJMSB and ASFA, were also busy promoting their own events and didn’t spare one post for Concordia’s union workers.
Furthermore, part of the reason the university hasn’t closed a deal is because they are working with a tighter budget thanks to the canceled tuition increase. The PQ, elected on the promise that they would freeze tuition, subsequently announced a $124-million slash to university funding across Quebec. As explained in The Concordian’s article published on Jan. 29, the cuts made to the budget accounted for five per cent of the university’s operating budget. As a result, Concordia declared a $13.2-million deficit at the end of the fiscal year. Thus, the university has very little money to grant the wishes of the unions, which is one of the reasons why contracts have not been finalized.
This is not to say that students should feel guilty or at fault but, given the circumstances, they should perhaps be incentivized to stand behind the unions. Tuition costs have been frozen but the cost of living has not. Union workers need a pay increase to keep up with the rising costs of food, rent, gas and so forth. This is not unreasonable but from the university’s point of view, they just don’t have the funds. From this standpoint, perhaps the fight should be taken up not with the university but with the government. Students have proven they are capable of getting the government to listen so why not use that power to help the very people that make it possible for them to be students?
The battle for a tuition freeze has been won but now the battle is for the right to fair pay for the people who make university life worth living. As students, we need to stand behind our staff and faculty in their quest to get what they rightly deserve: a just and beneficial contract with the university. Fair is fair, they supported students in their fight, now we must support them in theirs. We are all part of the same community and we need to stick together.