UPDATE: Brock strike affects traffic – police restrict highway access
ST. CATHARINES – A labour dispute between Brock University and its English as a second language instructors is affecting traffic in the area.
As a result of the protest, which began at 7 a.m. Monday, police have restricted access to St. David’s Road, blocking off-ramps from Highway 406 in both directions. The ramps off Hwy. 58 onto St. David’s Road are also blocked.
Protesters are only allowing two cars at a time into Brock, resulting in a major traffic tie up. Lines of vehicles are backed up on St. David’s Road and on Glenridge Avenue.
Niagara Regional Police media officer Const. Paul Day said the ramps were closed for safety reasons. He said it’s unknown how long or for how many days the situation will persist.
The dispute comes after the University rejected a tentative agreement mediators had reached with Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 4207-3, which represents 38 instructors. In a statement, Brock said that while they had tentatively agreed to the settlement, which was ratified by union membership, they discovered language against contracting out, which they believe was not in the agreement.
“At no time was the University prepared to accept this language,” the statement reads.
Instead, the Board of Trustees voted to ratify the agreement “subject to this error being fixed by the parties.”
The same statement says the union’s position was that the language was not an error.
CUPE Local 4207 officials say the board’s actions were not legal.
“Brock University doesn’t honour its agreements,” said Dan Crow, president of CUPE Local 4207 on the picket line Monday morning. “All of this could be avoided if Brock would actually ratify the tentative agreement both parties signed back in February.”
Crow said he was shocked when the board ratified the agreement contingent on a change, saying the actions of the board were not legal and were “unprecedented.” The change, said Crow, was the board’s request to remove a line that indicated there “shall be no contracting out of any work done by members of the bargaining unit.” Crow said those words provide job security for the members.
“They are not entitled to change this,” he said. “Once we ratified we can’t change it. They have to honour their agreement. Brock could end this now if their representative comes down and said we have an agreement and consider that it was ratified.”
The job action has led to some complaints for students and visitors to the university due to delays the and the transportation mess.
“They are inconveniencing the rest of the people,” said one student who had a brief verbal exchange with picketers. “This shouldn’t impact all of us here.”
The student, who didn’t wish to provide his name, said the transportation was a “mess.”
“I paid for a parking spot and I can’t even use it. I had to walk a half hour to school from who know’s where,” he said.
Despite the complaints, Crow said the display “is not excessive — this is what job action looks like.” He said they were conducting their action under the watch of the NRP to ensure safety, and Crow warned that people need to get used to this if there is no change in the university’s position, and said everything they are doing has been done
“We will be here as long as it takes. We have no choice,” he said. “Be prepared. This will continue until Brock University lives up to what it agreed to.”
On Monday, the union said the other two units at the university are not required to cross the picket line.
“Members of Unit 2 and Unit 1 please honour the picket lines of our sisters and brothers in UNIT 3,” it reads.
“Article 9.02 of the Collective Agreement for Unit one stipulates: In the event that another employee group at the University establishes picket lines on campus, CUPE 4207 employees shall not be required to cross said line if they reasonably perceive it to be hostile. Time missed as a result of employees failing to report to work under such circumstances shall be unpaid.”
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