UMSU removed CFS promotional materials from day timers

The Manitoban has learned that the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) removed all pages promoting the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) from the day timer agendas distributed across campus this week and last.

UMSU council president Al Turnbull said in a statement that the decision to tear out the pages was the UMSU executive team’s response to a deal signed by last year’s executive committing UMSU to purchasing day timers with CFS in the 2013-2014 school year.

The current executive team says they only became aware that they were locked into that deal when they found a quote for cheaper agendas, but were told they would still have to pay the full cost of the original order—$60,000—to CFS if they wished to cancel their contract.

“After we were told that we legally could not provide the cheapest and best service for our students, we the executive decided that in an act of protest towards the egregious clause [contractually binding] our organization, and the needless wasting of our students’ money [ . . . ] the federation should be removed from all the handbooks,” said Turnbull to the Manitoban.

UMSU vice president external Christian Pierce published an open letter in the Manitoban this summer detailing his team’s side of the agenda saga.

Dissent from this year’s UMSU council towards CFS comes at a tumultuous time for the federation. It was announced last week that at least 15 student associations from across Canada would participate in a mass-defederation effort, beginning with circulating petitions amongst their members.

As for UMSU, council recently struck an ad hoc committee to review the union’s relationship with CFS. The committee is expected to start its work soon.

CFS internal coordinator Brent Farrington had a slightly different interpretation of events than Turnbull. Farrington told the Manitoban that the only reason UMSU could not cancel their contract was that production had already started on the agendas.

“You can certainly cancel [the contract] at any time. We were telling him that the contract for the books had already been passed on to the printers. It was fully in production [ . . . ] It is kind of weird the way he is framing it. It is not the case that it was signed and then he called and was, like, ‘oh, sorry there is an error, we’d like to terminate it,’ which would have been fine,” said Farrington on Monday.

Farrington went on to say that although he has not seen the quote that UMSU was given, it is unlikely UMSU could have found agendas comparable in quality for cheaper than the CFS rate.

“[The UMSU executive] had said in [their] open letter that it was an excess of $10,000 in savings compared to the CFS books [ . . . ] for the number of books that would be produced, if they did a lot of it in just two-colour or one-colour, or just black-and-white, and used non-recycled paper stock, used just standard inks, then yeah, it could be feasible that that would be the case [ . . . ] if you produced something that was a far lower quality book, you could certainly reach that kind of number.”

8 Comments on "UMSU removed CFS promotional materials from day timers"

  1. Hey now that’s not all we did! We also put stickers in our agendas to inform students about our cheaper non-CFS health and dental plan!

    • I’ve seen people on Facebook commenting about how half of their prescriptions aren’t covered anymore because of this change in plans. Is something being done about this? The plan might be cheaper for SOME students, but students who are vulnerable and need to have their prescriptions filled shouldn’t be burdened financially.

  2. Curious Student | September 11, 2013 at 9:58 pm |

    Does anyone have a link to the letter from Pierce? I would be interested in reading it.

  3. Good on them, it’s about time.

  4. Do you realize that the agendas cost students nothing? The promotional deals covered the ENTIRE cost of the agenda in earlier years. I can only imagine that Fresh (as shown by their great organizing capabilities and 26% voter turn out, woot woot!) can do an even better job than past executives (this slate was why there was the biggest turn out in student voters in decades).

    Also, the reason CFS stuff is included is because there are policies that mandate the CFS share information to its membership for transparency as well as providing resources such as Student Aid, Loan Repayment, and Social Services (including Tenants’ Rights, Sexual Health Info, Counseling Services, and Legal Services for students).

    Also, the $7-20 (I honestly can’t remember) or so we pay to the CFS per year is nothing compared to how much we saved in tuition from the years of tuition freeze that the CFS negotiated with the provincial government that ended a few years ago. We saved hundreds in our degree due to that freeze. I’d call that a worthwhile investment.

    The bigger waste of money, in my mind, is the amount UMSU members paid people (if these people were paid) to remove the pages.

  5. Robert Paulson | September 12, 2013 at 6:26 am |

    Funny… Here I thought the whole point of the group buying was cheaper rates. That’s two services that are cheaper if we don’t let CFS dictate them, how about that…

  6. It’s obvious that the UMSU executive and president don’t know much about business.

    When a service has been contracted, you can’t just back out without a penalty (otherwise the other party to the contract would be left holding the bag for whatever costs they had incurred). You can, however, set up a different contract for the next time.

    The whole thing sounds more political than practical, anyways — and tearing out pages seems a huge waste of time.

  7. Fellow Student | September 12, 2013 at 6:38 pm |

    Cancelling a contract before any costs are incurred shouldn’t bind you to have to pay the full $60,000. A reasonable penalty would be assumed, but for the past exec to sign a contract that says the instant they sign it there is no way to back out of it in anyway is plain negligent.

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