Concordia library union claims major pay cut

University spokesperson describes allegation as ‘misinformation’

Concordia University spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr described a letter written by Concordia University Library Employees’ Union (CULEU) president Kent Cluff and recently published in The Concordian and The Link as “misinformation.”

In his letter, Cluff claimed Concordia’s library staff “have been forced to take a major pay cut” as a result of the university’s “management priorities” and Quebec’s Liberal government. On April 6, Barr told The Concordian library employees did not receive a pay cut from the university.

“Our working conditions have been changed,” Cluff clarified in an interview following the publication of his letter. “We are bringing home less money because we are paying a portion of the pension contribution that would have been paid in the past by the university.”

According to Barr, since January 2018, all eligible university employees who wanted to remain part of the university-managed pension plan, including library staff, “were obliged to increase their contributions towards their pension.” The increase is a requirement under new Quebec legislation, which Cluff criticized. Since employees are contributing more, he explained, the university is contributing less, and Cluff wonders how Concordia is using those savings.

Barr said Concordia selected the lowest possible contribution ratio for employees under the legislation: 45 per cent for employees and 55 per cent for the employer.

According to Cluff, the library union previously agreed to a three-year deal that included a pay increase every year, but the increase is offset because of the higher contribution to the pension plan. Cluff said the increase acts as a pay cut because it cancels out the members’ pay increase.

In an email, Barr wrote that all Concordia employees received annual salary increases, “and many also received annual step increases (regular progression within pay scales) as outlined, and agreed to, in the collective and employee agreements.”

While the alleged pay cut was not discussed during the negotiations for the library union’s previous agreement, signed on November 30, Cluff told The Concordian it will be “one of the major negotiating points” in the upcoming communication due to begin shortly.

“We told the university that we want to get to the negotiation table, and we would like to have been there already,” Cluff said.

According to Barr, conversations will be held soon to schedule the next round of negotiations.

Cluff’s letter was published just a few days after the official unveiling of the new Webster Library on the downtown campus, on March 24. It was inaugurated in the presence of Quebec Minister for Higher Education Hélène David, whose party Cluff condemned.

“Many of our members were even involved in the event itself,” Cluff said. “We were kind of torn because, on the one hand, we wanted to celebrate that, but it was important to point out that, at the same time, we were experiencing this pay cut.”

Photo by Alex Hutchins

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