SEIU 2 responds to President Dangerfield’s “non-response”
TIA KUTSCHERA FOX // OPINIONS EDITOR
Last year, the cleaning staff at Capilano University applied to the Labour Board for the right to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2 and its subsidiary campaign, Justice for Janitors. The campaign strives to get cleaners at post-secondary institutions throughout Canada paid a living wage. They finally won in June after their employer, Best Service Pros, stalled them with a hearing on the grounds that “it would proliferate bargaining units.”
During the Fall semester, an open letter circulated the CapU campus calling for a living wage for all workers, which was signed by student clubs, other unions and faculty departments. Some students also signed a petition agreeing to support the cleaners and university workers in their fight for a living wage, which the Living Wage for Families Campaign placed at just over $20 per hour for Metro Vancouver workers, well above the $11.50-12 that CapU’s 29 cleaners earn.
After a meeting with the Student Worker Alliance Group (SWAG) at the end of November, CapU President Paul Dangerfield issued a response stating that he would consider making the living wage an “element” of the 2030 Campus Master Facilities and Urban Plan.
Dangerfield declined an interview and instead, Senior Communications Advisor Cheryl Rossi issued the following statement, “CapU will begin work on its 2030 plan next year, at which time the University will consider, amongst other matters, the well-being of our employees in connection with their ability to live and work on the North Shore. There are no changes to the University’s position at this time.”
SEIU 2 organizer Zoe Luba isn’t impressed by Dangerfield’s lack of support for the cause. “I take his assertion that he would consider putting living wage in the campus plan for 2030 as a non-response, to me it’s not a final answer, I think it just means that we need to keep pushing for him to move more quickly on this,” she said. “They [the cleaners] can’t wait till 2030 for a living wage. They’re living in poverty right now.”
Luba is also convinced that Dangerfield’s reluctance to implement a living wage is not due to CapU’s financial inability. “I know the University has the funds now to make this transition happen. We’ve met with the main organizer for living wage for families campaign. She’s broken it down for us, shown us statistically how it works, showed similar-sized contracts like Vancity or City of Vancouver, and they’ve transitioned. They’re living wage employers now. It’s not about ability, it’s about political will.”
SWAG President Leticia Fox noted that the open letter shows that not everyone on campus is reluctant to support the campaign. So far they have received 1,200 signatures – 18 per cent of last semester’s enrollment according to information provided by Institutional Research Analyst Nancy Morris. Fox says they are still accepting signatures, and Luba added that the petition would soon go online and become more accessible.
SWAG is currently trying to get more students involved and aware of the issues. “[The workers] are all a part of this community, they should be able to support their families without working every single day,” said Fox.
While the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) has been supportive of the campaign, they did not sign the open letter and Luba would like to see much more involved support from them. “They meet with the administration who has the power to implement this policy fairly often, they have a lot of pull and influence, so we are hoping the CSU can back us
on that,” she said.
This article was updated on Jan. 23, 2018 after a quote by Zoe Luba had been miscredited to Leticia Fox.