CUPE loses grievance on printing of ‘union bug’
The CUPE 1975 support staff union at the U of S is considering whether to take its latest dispute with the University’s administration to arbitration.
This time it’s not a major issue like collective bargaining or changes to the job classification system – it’s over the use of the ‘union bug’, the small signature of the union on the back of materials printed by CUPE workers at the University’s Printing Services plant on campus.
Printshop unions have put their ‘bug’, either an oval graphic or the name of the union, on materials as far back as the 1890s. Many do it only at the request of the customer of the print materials, but some, like the California state printing shop, place it on all materials printed there, whether the internal government customer wants it or not.
The CUPE name has been placed in small type on the back of brochures, booklets and similar material run at Printing Services for at least 31 years, since a July 13, 1973 letter from U of S Controller and Treasurer John Pringle to the union agreed to the practice.
But Feb. 24 of this year, Associate Vice-President of Human Resources Barb Daigle wrote to CUPE 1975 President Glenda Graham to say that in response to a number of requests to Printing Services, the practice would be stopped, except on certain documents like the CUPE collective agreement.
On March 11 the union filed a grievance, saying it believed the decision was a violation of the 1973 letter and the CUPE collective agreement.
Saskatchewan Federation of Labour President Larry Hubich wrote to Daigle, dismayed at the U of S move.
“I would have expected our university to have more respect for their workers and would be proud to have a union bug on the printed materials they produce,” Hubich wrote. He said the bug shows people there is democracy in the workplace, that there are decent working conditions, and that quality work is being performed.
A grievance hearing was held May 4 and on July 2 Grievance Committee Chair Laura Seibel, an HRD Labour Consultant, issued a decision stating that stopping the printing of the union name “is within the rights of management to direct its workforce and to determine appropriate use of its resources. No provisions of the collective agreement have been violated.”
CUPE First Vice-President Rhonda Heisler says the executive will likely consider legal advice about pursuing arbitration, but with arbitrations costing as much as $6,000 “the ultimate decision rests with the membership”. The question may go to a regular monthly membership meeting, Heisler said.
Printing Services Production Co-ordinator Maria Jochmaring says the plant is no longer putting the CUPE 1975 name on materials, but continues to put “Printing Services, University of Saskatchewan” on most materials “just to identify where it was printed”. She adds, “some people don’t want that on and if they don’t, we don’t put it on.”
Jochmaring says if a customer asks for the CUPE name to be included on their printed material, Printing Services will add it on.