Union clashes with admin

By ├ćndrew Rininsland

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees held an information picket in front of the University of Calgary administration building Wed., Feb. 6. The AUPE Local 52 is concerned about the university’s plan to sign an agreement with Xerox, which threatens current jobs in U of C Printing Services.

“These people have a demonstrated pattern of behaviour against employees,” said AUPE president Dan MacLennan. “The university should be held accountable for their–pardon my French–bullshit accounting that puts people out of work.”

Support staff from across the U of C walked in a line in front of the administration building for over an hour. The group is hoping the protest will raise awareness for their concerns before the U of C Board of Governors vote on the Xerox IMAGinE project later this week. The agreement involves the replacement of machines within Printing Services and the outsourcing of much of Printing Services to Xerox. While Printing Services currently employs only 10 people, there are fears that this is yet another step in a growing trend toward privatization of campus infrastructure.

“There is on-going concern about more and more private contractors taking jobs at the U of C,” said MacLennan. “We see a pattern of behaviour from the senior administration.”

MacLennan said the union has considered bringing in the Auditor General to examine the university’s actions.

Calgary-Varsity MLA Harry Chase spoke at the picket, blaming the current Conservative provincial government for consistently cutting funding to post-secondary education and forcing universities to adopt financial measures such as privatization of infrastructure.

“It’s a direct result of a lack of base operating funds from the provincial government,” said Chase. “The university is forced to make these controversial decisions and try to pinch pennies, but there’s yet to be any evidence that the penny-pinching worked out. The provincial government still hasn’t addressed the problem that all faculties have to give five per cent for the next three years to a central pool to deal with various funding crises. Everyone’s being hurt by this.”

Chase also questioned the merits of the privatization plan itself.

“I have yet to see privatization come in either as more efficient or cheaper,” said Chase. “It’s a misnomer. It’s private profit at public expense.”

U of C vice-president finance and services Mike McAdam stressed that the contract is still in the working stages and the university will work with Xerox to prevent jobs from being lost, but wouldn’t guarantee job security for Printing Services employees.

“Xerox and others are dealing with the issues of jobs under the new model as compared with the old, trying obviously to segue way as many positions that exist currently onto the new model without any job loss, but at the end of the day, there may be some positions that are not needed anymore and will need to be abolished,” he said.