The ongoing dispute between the Concordia Student Union Executive and the Workers’ Union is closer to a resolution now that both sides have agreed to appear before a mediator.
The dispute began when Workers Union President Christina Xydous and CSU councilor Thomas Price issued a press release on Monday, Nov.15, alleging that the CSU Executive had engaged in illegal hiring practices and mismanagement of funds.
The CSU admitted they hired more temporary workers for Orientation Week than is allowed under the collective agreement without consent of the Workers Union, and that some of them may have been paid less than the $11.68 per hour minimum. But it rejected the other allegations contained in the release, the most serious of which was that the Executive operated a $21 thousand secret fund. The Executive has demanded the Workers Union back up this charge with proof, but none has been offered to date.
The Executive then suspended Xydous for two months without pay, claiming the press release contained unsubstantiated allegations that could be libelous. The Workers Union appealed the suspension, claiming that Xydous was just doing her job, and demanding she be reinstated and receive a written apology.
Lauren Teblum, the CSU’s VP finance, said the Executive’s decision was taken after consulting with legal counsel.
“We didn’t want to sue somebody and have an expensive court case, because it’s student money that we’re dealing with,” said Teblum. “A two-month suspension without pay is what was suggested. We feel it was fair, and we stand by our decision 100 per cent.”
Xydous rejects the idea that her suspension was justified.
“Absolutely not. I’m the president of the Worker’s Union,” said Xydous. “I have not only a moral and ethical obligation, I have a legal obligation to uphold and defend the collective agreement and the rights of our members.”
Xydous said that she was well within her rights to be critical of the CSU’s management practices. “I think that [the suspension] was a severe overreaction, because union representatives are protected by law when carrying out union work.”
Teblum said the issue wasn’t that Xydous disagreed with the Executive, but that she didn’t act in good faith to solve the issues.
“In the press release it said that she had exhausted all means, and the Executive had not been of help to her, but in reality [I] was never contacted, nor the financial controller, the bookkeeper, the judicial board, the council of representatives,” said Teblum.
“These are all internal measures before going to the external measure of issuing a press release and holding a press conference.”
Xydous, however, believes the decision to go to the media was justified, and the CSU’s response was uncalled for.
“The CSU has absolutely no right to privacy when it comes to the grievances that we file against them,” said Xydous. “If what they’re doing can be brought to the public through the media, that’s perfectly legitimate. You see unions doing this all the time.”
With the dispute over the press release and the subsequent suspension at an impasse, the CSU Executive and the Worker’s Union have decided to forego litigation and arbitration for a mediated settlement, the quickest and least expensive of the options available to them.
“We offered to go into mediation with them, because arbitration can take a very long time,” said Xydous. “I would ideally like to see us be in front of a mediator with the current Executive [still in place].”
Teblum said the Executive is also in favor of a mediated settlement. “This way it speeds up the process, so we’ll have a mediator come, hopefully soon, and the issue will be resolved.”