The union that represents trades, maintenance and service workers at the University of Guelph says it has been forced out of its third-floor office at the University Centre on campus.
The vice-president for CUPE 1334, Laura Maclure, said the reason they have been turfed is because the union stopped paying rent a number of years ago out of protest because its office was deemed unsafe during a risk assessment by campus police.
“We haven’t paid rent in the last four years because there’s been no change to our office. It’s still not up to code and it’s not a safe environment,” said the vice-president of CUPE 1334, Laura Maclure, in a phone interview on Tuesday as the office was being cleaned out by movers hired by the university.
A spokesperson for the U of G said in an email that the University Centre Board made the decision to remove the office and that CUPE 1334 had been notified numerous times in the past several years to pay up $45,000 in back rent.
The two sides both say they have been negotiating to reach some sort of agreement, but the talks have gone nowhere.
A proposal was submitted by CUPE last month, but a counter-proposal or a decision that was anticipated at the end of April was never made by the university, according to Maclure.
She said on Monday evening the union received a notice of termination of the lease from the board and a moving crew was at the office early Tuesday morning.
“We’re being booted out with no notice.”
“Within the office, we have some very sensitive, as you can imagine, information in there,” Maclure said. “We have medical documentation, we have financial stuff — things the employer shouldn’t have access to.”
All of the items are being moved to a storage locker, which the union will have to take ownership of.
Maclure said it creates a difficult situation because it represents over 200 members on campus and now has no office.
“This is completely unexpected and it’s just happening right now, so I don’t know what we do going forward and I don’t know how this will affect our relationship with the employer,” Maclure said.
When reached for further comment, Philip John, the director of the University Centre, said he has tried for two years to come to a fair agreement with the union.
He said his team attempted to find them an alternate office and presented a pair of options that were both turned down by the union.
John said campus police did make recommendations in 2011 to have two exits in the office, instead of one, but stated that the office is safe.
“They came back a second time last month to verify if this was really a violation of fire codes or even safety codes and their response was in the negative,” John said. “ made a recommendation based on the request from CUPE 1334 and we didn’t feel the need to go ahead and implement that.”
Both sides said they are considering legal action.
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