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SFU student support staff locked out at Burnaby campus

The picket lines are going up now that labour negotiations between the Simon Fraser Student Society and support staff have fallen apart.

The picket lines are going up now that labour negotiations between the Simon Fraser Student Society and support staff have fallen apart.

The society, a non-profit group representing about 25,000 undergrads, employs about 15 unionized staff to help with programs, publicity, research and providing student services. They also run the women's centre and Out on Campus, a space for queer students and their allies. The two parties have been negotiating a collective agreement for roughly two years, but the student society served staff, represented by CUPE Local 3338, with a 72-hour lockout notice on Thursday.

"We've been negotiating for about two years, and the employers put a proposal to us we didn't find acceptable," said CUPE member John Bannister.

According to Bannister, the society wants to reduce wages, which are typically around $30 per hour, by up to $10 and cut the number of staff.

"It's not really about wages. It's about us having enough staff there to do the work of the society and provide service to the students," Bannister said. "(But) we're also looking at a significant wage role back."

Bannister suspects the society wants to replace full-time unionized staff with cheaper labour from students.

"We don't think it's a money issue. It's a philosophy issue, they want to break the union," he said.

SFU is in the middle of summer semester, and the lockout means students can't get services they've already paid for, Bannister added.

"The board of directors is acting in the best interests of students to restore accountability to the society. Our goal is to provide opportunities for students and more funding for clubs and departmental student unions, where it belongs," said society president Jeff McCann. He also said the women's centre and Out on Campus space will remain open.

"There's still management, the board directors will maintain high service levels," he said.

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