Kitchener-Waterloo·Updated

Some workers crossing their own union's picket line at Wilfrid Laurier strike

Some members of CUPE Local 936 are crossing the picket line, opting to work for Wilfrid Laurier University while their colleagues strike outside the front gate.

Decision of some members to work could hinder negotiations, according to CUPE Ontario president

Members of CUPE Local 936 walked off the job Sunday. (Dan Mackenzie/Twitter)

Some members of CUPE Local 936 are crossing their own local's picket line, opting to work for Wilfrid Laurier University while their colleagues strike outside the front gate. 

Custodial staff, grounds keepers and trades people walked off the job Sunday, after the university refused to drop the option to replace retirees with contract workers. 

"We would hope that everyone in the bargaining unit would participate," said CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn, "but it's not clear that all the members are participating."

Hahn said the university is using a divide-and-conquer strategy, telling trades people that they will not be replaced by lower paid, contract workers when they retire. 

"So, some of those trades people have decided not to picket," he said, and these workers continue to work for the university during the strike.

The local represents between 100 and 110 employees. About half of those employees are custodial staff. The other half is a mix of trades people and grounds keepers. It's not clear how many are opting to cross the picket lines. 

CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn says some trades people have chosen not to strike. (Dan Mackenzie/Twitter)

The decision of some members to cross the picket line could have an impact on the union's ability to broker a deal with the university.

"It's obviously not an ideal circumstance," Hahn said, "but we have an obligation to defend the workers who are most vulnerable here, which is the custodial maintenance unit. Often this work is taken for granted, but the cleaning and maintenance of our buildings is what makes that university work."

No plans to meet

In a statement, the university said it is open to "discussing a settlement," but that the union has not requested a meeting since the strike began. 

"Contingency plans are in place to maintain operations," the statement read. "We are focused on maintaining health, safety and cleanliness standards for all students, staff and faculty."

As for those who are crossing the picket line, the university said it would support employees who "choose to exercise their legal right to work during the strike."