By: C. Mulligan, The Sudbury Star, August 20, 2010
The union representing 152 striking office, clerical and technical workers at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine got a huge financial boost Friday in the form of a $1-million cheque from the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT).
The money comes from the defence fund of CAUT, a union that represents 65,000 teachers, librarians, researchers and other academic professionals at post-secondary institutions.
Twenty-five faculty members at Canada’s newest medical school, members of OPSEU Local 677, went on strike this week.
Tyler England, an Internet technologist at NOSM, is president of the bargaining team for Local 677, which represents two groups of workers, only one of which is on strike.
Their local is affiliated with CAUT.
England said the million-dollar donation is a huge boost to the small union local, which is fighting to settle a first contract with NOSM.
The cheque was presented at an event Friday on the picket line at the entrance to Laurentian University by a “flying picket” of CAUT members from across Canada.
Striking members work at both campus of the medical school — at Laurentian in Sudbury and at Thunder Bay’s Lakehead University.
England said it was “overwhelming” to receive that degree of support from its sister union.
Striking members receive $150 a week in strike pay from the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. The money from the Canadian organization will be used to rent trailers, pay legal expenses and cover other costs of mounting a strike, said England.
His members work as administrative assistants, co-ordinate undergraduate programs and the hiring of preceptors, look after the standardized patient program and perform Internet technology work.
England said hammering out a first contract, which both sides have been trying to do for 18 months, is essentially a matter of settling on the “language of the status quo.”
Members of OPSEU Local 677, who earn from $33,000 to $65,0000, hit picket lines Monday after talks with a conciliator broke off.
England told The Star earlier that the biggest issues in the dispute are hours of work and overtime, the workload and job classication.
He also charged that NOSM is trying to “roll back” members’
sick leave benefits. No negotiations have taken place between the two parties since the strike began.
NOSM Dean Dr. Roger Strasser said this week that the school is looking for an agreement that meets the needs of both staff and the school.
He said NOSM’s negotiating team was ready to resume bargaining, but England challenged that Friday.
He said his union contacted the school about that statement, but said no new talks have been scheduled.
Meanwhile, orientation for new students at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine is to go ahead next week.