Hundreds of Queen’s University staff and faculty rallied on campus to protest Bill 124, and to call on the university for fair compensation adjustments.
With the cost of living in Canada ever-increasing, many members of Queen’s staff are struggling to make ends meet.
“It’s been getting harder to keep up with the bills,” says Amelia Laranjeira, a caretaker at Queen’s University.
“It’s frightening to think about where this could go. It gets depressing, not being able to pay your bills.”
Laranjeira is not alone.
Caretakers are one of the lowest-paid positions at the school, and many of them have had to change their habits now that the cost of living keeps going up.
“It’s tough,” says Jason Herrington, who is also a caretaker at Queen’s.
“We’ve had to cancel different things, we have to reprioritize our money. All we’re asking for is for Queen’s to reprioritize theirs and value their workers.”
In an email to the union presidents, Queen’s says it is running a $62.8-million deficit in its budget due to the province’s 10 per cent tuition cut for Ontario students, as well as the tuition freeze.
“The university’s use of its reserves has helped to mitigate the worst impacts of the tuition cut,” the email says.
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“However, our ongoing reliance on the university’s reserves is not sustainable.”
But the union presidents are saying the opposite — that Queen’s does have the money to raise wages.
“Queen’s is saying there is a deficit, but we feel they’ve been way too conservative and way too restrictive with their budget that was approved by the Board of Trustees in May earlier this year,” says Kelly Orser, president of United Steelworkers Local 2010.
“We need Queen’s to prioritize their workers.”
Bill 124 was ruled unconstitutional by the Ontario Superior Court last November, and Queen’s workers are looking for wage compensation. The Ontario Court of Appeal on Tuesday began three days of hearings on Bill 124 as the provincial government is challenging the Superior Court ruling.
Queen’s says no additional funding has been coming from the province because of the Superior Court decision.
But the union presidents say they will continue to call on the university to come back to the bargaining table, to fight for better wages for their workers.