CUPE gets the boot

After nearly a year of working side by side, the Graduate Students Association (GSA) served CUPE 3909 with an eviction notice on Nov. 28.

The office of CUPE 3909, which represents teaching assistants, markers, tutors and sessional instructors at the University of Manitoba, has been located on the second floor of University Centre in the GSA’s office space since Dec. 1 2010.
The GSA offered the union their space after they were evicted from their previous office in St Johns College as a temporary office until CUPE 3909 could find a new location on campus.

CUPE 3909 now has approximately two months to vacate the GSA’s space.
GSA president Peter Nawrot explained that GSA needs the space to accommodate a new full-time staff member, and that the GSA is currently short on space for their executive members.

“Space is at a premium in our office, our executive don’t even have enough terminals to work at when the executive are here,” he said.

Nawrot pointed out that the space was originally meant to be a temporary location for CUPE. The GSA did not expect the union to stay for close to a year.
“Our whole lease agreement here was based on the assumption that they would be actively seeking a permanent place,” he said.

Nawrot felt that CUPE had not done enough to find an alternative location over the past year and he had suggested possible spaces for the union to relocate to. Having them stay in the space for a year was “in violation” of their original agreement, he argued.

“I think that they’ve been just busy doing their work, that they’ve maybe not been as fully engaged in looking for a spot because that’s not what’s urgent on their current agenda,” he said.

“It’s been a year, and I felt that it was a long enough time for them to find an alternative space.”

Matthew McLean, president of CUPE 3909, said he was surprised by the eviction notice because he was not aware of the GSA having any issues with CUPE being in the space for longer than was originally anticipated.

“If that was an issue, we did not discuss it. I’m not sure where [Nawrot] got that from.”

“The only time we talked about the lease in terms of when it would be terminated and whatnot was after [Nawrot] provided us an eviction notice,” McLean added.
McLean explained that CUPE has found it extremely difficult to find a permanent office location, as space is limited on campus.

CUPE is now considering looking for space off-campus, but are concerned that it may adversely affect their members.

Most of CUPE’s communication with its members is via email and telephone, but moving off-campus would make it more difficult for members to drop by the office in person, McLean explained.

He also argued that many GSA members are also CUPE members, so the move will have an impact the GSA membership.

“It would definitely be a step back for us to lose that presence on campus,” he said.