Friday, September 19, 2008

Day 03 – update 07

The Lance interviews Peter Simpson, secretary of the Canadian Association of University Teachers Defense Fund, to help you understand the symbolic $1 million donation that was made to WUFA this afternoon.

Brian Brown (right), president of the Windsor University Faculty Association, receives a cheque from Larry Hale (left), president of the Canadian Association of University Teachers' Defense Fund earlier today at a rally outside Chrysler Tower at the University of Windsor.

Who is the CAUT Defense Fund?

Peter Simpson: It’s actually an organization called the CAUT Defense Fund, it’s a strike fund, effectively, for CAUT members. We do something called ‘flying pickets’ out to an association that is on strike. That’s one of the things we’re doing. We’re sending flying pickets from across the country.

Peter Simpson: CAUT as an organization represents 65,000 academic staff across the country, that includes full members which is about every university with the exception of francophone universities in Quebec … but we have, I’d say, close to 20,000 federated members, which is a slightly more distant relationship, that would be all of the members of OPSEU, who function as academic staff colleges in Ontario and a similar group of Federation of Post Secondary Educators.

I heard the donation is $1 million

Peter Simpson: It’s hard to describe, but in a nutshell, the Defense Fund, like any strike fund, seeks to make up for the hits people take when they go on strike. In effect, what happens is when you go on strike there’s an immediate cessation of wages and benefits. Everything is cut off by the employer. So what happens is, it’s a kind of insurance fund, you pay in on a monthly basis, and if your union is ever on strike, you collect benefits. It doesn’t match your salary, it’s considerably less, but it’s a significant enough amount that people don’t go get off into trouble.

It [the fund] pays a certain amount per day to each member, but it also makes available to the striking union the money to cover the cost of some limited benefit coverage. So certain kinds of benefits are not available to you when you’re on strike. Others are. The fund pays money to the association in order to continue restricted benefit coverage. Then there are often particular costs involved with ending the strike. Say the employer were to write a letter that misrepresented what the union was doing in collective bargaining and published it on campus. The union could decide that that was contrary to the Labour Relations Act in and retain legal council to pursue the matter in front of the Labour Relations Board. The Defense Fund would cover the cost of doing that. Say the union decided that the mediator appointed by the provincial government wasn’t equal to the task, the union could approach the employer and seek to hire a private mediator. People who do this and who charge money for doing it, and the Defense Fund would cover that as well.

The million dollars is a symbolic cheque, it’s like the cheque they show you when you go and get your winnings in the lottery, it’s a giant cheque.

So the fund can provide for WUSA up to a million dollars?

Peter Simpson: Should they need $2 million, they cold have it. There’s approximately $20 million in the fund. The point is to symbolize by exceeding what they need right now, is to symbolize the extent of support.

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