Contract talks break down between University of Saskatchewan, CUPE

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Contract talks have broken down between the University of Saskatchewan and CUPE, which represents 1,900 non-academic positions at the Saskatoon campus.

One of the main sticking points is the benefit plan.

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The university wants to move union members out of a defined benefit pension plan, a move the union opposes.

CUPE local 1975 president Craig Hannah said the union tabled a compromise during mediation in December.

“Our jointly sponsored defined benefit proposal would have saved the University millions of dollars per year, and they would have seen plan risks and costs equally shared by University and union members going forward,” Hannah said in a statement.

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“The university once again rejected our constructive efforts to address their pension concerns and protect our benefit security.”

The university said in a statement the current plan is costing millions of dollars that could be better spent on education and research.

“The current defined benefit pension plan for employees who are members of CUPE 1975 has cost the university an additional $29.8 million beyond normal contributions over the past decade ($3.1 million in 2018),” said a release from the university.

“These significant additional contributions are expected to continue into the future under the pension’s current structure.”

The university said CUPE is the only labour group still in an opened defined pension plan.

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Also at issue for the union are wage increases.

The university proposed two per cent wage increases in 2019 and 2020, with a signing bonus instead of retro-active pay. The university said the updated salary model aligns with market rates and allows for future growth.

CUPE called the wage proposal “insulting.”

“This wage offer is well below the monetary increases that other groups on campus have received,” CUPE said in a release.

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The union said they have a strong strike mandate from their members but are not yet in a legal strike position.

The university said they are preparing for possible job action and are hopeful to reach an essential services agreement with the union. Officials said the university will remain open and classes will continue regardless of any job action.

The contact between the two sides expired on Dec. 31, 2015.

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