The following open letter to the SFU community was written by SFU student Emma Noonan, originally titled “In Support of a Livable World” and originally published here. It is republished on PoliticsRespun with permission.
On Sunday, July 10, 2011 at 2:13pm, the SFSS Board of Directors issued notice that they were locking out the staff members belonging to CUPE local 3338, bargaining unit 5. This included the office staff of the SFSS General Office, the Copy Centre, the SFU Surrey Office staff, Out On Campus and the Women’s Centre, a total of 15 permanent and 5 term employees. They took this action after almost two years of negotiations over the expired collective agreement. Without going too far into the specifics, the Board of Directors has stated that this is primarily because the SFSS currently pays unreasonably high wages to CUPE employees, who have been unwilling to negotiate wage cuts.
I would like to examine, for a minute, the idea that the SFSS pays too much in wages to its employees. On the SFSS’s lockout website, they state that they were contractually obligated to pay $748 911 in wages and benefits for 12 permanent employees. I am slightly confused by this number because it is the number they use to state how much they pay in wages, for any number of employees, in their budget infographic. Given that this particular CUPE bargaining unit consists of more than 12 people, I must conclude that either the SFSS in fact pays more than that in total wages, or that that number is divided among more people than they imply. However, I will assume that that is money is divided only among the 12 employees mentioned. That means that on average, assuming all possible benefits such as medical and dental were claimed for every employee, these employees had a before-tax income of $62 409.25 for the year.
I know that $30/hr sounds like a lot of money to be paying someone. I understand that $62 409 per year per employee sounds a bit scary, especially as a student who can make maybe a third or a quarter of that and is barely scraping by. It’s frustrating to think that you’re paying someone that much more than you make yourself. But would you really rather we were paying SFSS staff $10/hr? In Vancouver, for people who have families and homes, this is not a realistic living wage. You live here. You know that. With mortgages and groceries and school fees and all the other costs of just getting through the world, is $62 409 really so much to be paying dedicated and experienced professionals?
And it’s not as though your student fees are being shoveled out the door on a daily basis as hand outs or as money wasted, as the SFSS Directors “money saved” tweets would have you believe. The General Office and the Surrey Office staff does the work of actually providing a great many of the SFSS’s services such as coordinating room bookings, making sure allocated funds get where they need to go and serving as a stable frame around which a new Board of Directors can form from year to year. I would even argue that many of the activities and events proposed by the SFSS Directors on Twitter over the course of the lockout would be much more difficult and time-consuming to organize without this staff. Outside of the General Office are the Out on Campus and Women’s Center staff, who provide invaluable services to SFU students. Not only are they available to answer questions and help deal with crisis situations, but on a day-to-day basis they run libraries, organize events, participate in and are responsive to their respective collective bodies, advocate for students both specifically and generally, give guest lectures in classes, organize with the Health Center as well as with off-campus groups to provide free condoms and lubricant to anyone who needs them, organize the volunteers of their respective spaces and liaise with the SFSS board Continue reading SFSS CUPE 3338 Lockout “either ignorance or malicious denigration of their vital work”: SFU student