October 1, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 19  

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Western still clean; caretakers to vote

By Anton Vidgen
Gazette Staff

Conciliation talks between Western's administration and the Canadian Union of Public Employees local 2361 ended yesterday with the union deciding to take an administration proposal to its membership for a vote on Wed., Oct. 8.

"We are now going to await the outcome of the vote," said David Estok, director of Western's department of communication and public affairs, adding yesterday's discussions were productive. The union, however, is still in a strike position as of Sun., Oct. 5, Estok said.

CUPE local 2361 represents approximately 250 caretakers, trades people and arena workers at Western who have been without a contract since Jun. 30.

Prior to yesterday's developments, Fred Blake, national staff representative for CUPE in charge of local 2361, said a mediation session had been scheduled for Tuesday with a mediator appointed by the Ontario Ministry of Labour. "[Mediation] is usually looked at as a last chance," Blake said on Monday.

"There's been no movement on the contracting out issue - and that's still a huge barrier," Blake noted. "There has been some movement on the issue of wages but not enough."

"The reality is that in any job, even if you make a million dollars an hour, there's no guarantee they'll want you around tomorrow," Blake said. "[They can] turn around and hire another provider [but] we do it at a fair price."

"We'd like to see that they appreciate our services and that we're in their plans for the future," Blake stated.

It is believed there has been enough consensus on these issues for the union to decide to take the Western offer to its membership for consideration.

The union, however, is still in a strike position. "We've already had a strike vote and we have the mandate from our members," Blake said.

If union members do not vote in favour of the new proposal and if a strike occurs, students may find public transportation unwilling to arrive on campus.

John Ford, director of planning services for the London Transit Commission, said unions generally will not cross other union lines out of respect. If Western's campus was similarly blocked off by picket lines, bus operators would not cross.

Regardless of the outcome of the vote, Estok said the university has to have a contingency plan if a strike were to occur. "We'd ask other employees to keep open [and] operating in the case of a disruption - we're not hoping to go there."

CUPE local 2361 was unable to be reached for further comment late yesterday.




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