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2001 Annual Report on Privatization
Issues: Education

"Our Universities Work Because We Do" Speaking Notes

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“Our Universities Work Because We Do”:

Speaking Notes on Ontario’s Bill 132

I. Introduction

On October 19, 2000, the Conservative government of Mike Harris introduced Bill 132 into the Ontario Legislature. This proposed legislation would:

CUPE sees Bill 132 as a serious threat to working people in Ontario. It will entrench a two-tiered post-secondary education system according to the demands of corporations.

As University workers, CUPE members see Bill 132 as part of a concerted effort on the part of the government and corporations to:

Yet, the threat is not just to us in our workplaces.

The Harris government is very clear about its goals for the restructuring of the PSE system.

After all, the “private” post-secondary experience is not meant to contribute to society, but to the economy.

The Harris agenda does not acknowledge that universities and colleges are:

They are not corporate training centres.

II. The Path to Privatization

Bill 132 introduces private universities, but we are already well down the path to privatization.

We continue to fight-back against these efforts at privatization, but it is not an easy struggle.

We are united in the conviction that “Our Universities Work Because We Do”.

III. Bill 132: Our Analysis

Bill 132 must be rejected because a for-profit education will be expensive, anti-union and business-driven.

We have seen much of the privatization agenda already, but Bill 132 will legitimize the changes already made, institutionalize them and push the process even further.

From our perspective, there are ten important issues to address.


IV. Our Demands

  1. CUPE demands that our work be recognized for its contribution to the university. As part-time sessionals and TAs, we teach 40% of the courses in many institutions. As service workers, we keep the university running.

    CUPE demands that our collective rights be respected, an end to precarious work, benefits for ourselves and our families, a living wage and good working conditions.

  2. CUPE demands that corporations pay their fair share of taxes in support of the public good.

    CUPE demands that the struggles of working people inform the research agenda of our post-secondary education institutions.Our needs, rather than corporate needs, ought to shape the kinds of knowledge produced there.

  3. CUPE demands that public investments be protected and that unsafe workplaces get the resources necessary for their long-term upkeep.

  4. CUPE demands full disclosure of efforts to bring “lease-back” arrangements to our colleges and universities. We also demand full accountability for the gap between projected and actual costs of these operations.

  5. CUPE demands the end to long-term leases that result in public subsidies for private corporations.

  6. CUPE demands that that the hollowing out of our public post-secondary institutions be halted. The special interests of corporations are no substitute for the public interest.

  7. CUPE demands that the elitist Harvard model be absolutely rejected.

  8. CUPE demands an end to the chipping away of our public education system.

    CUPE demands that students be permitted to study in an environment not defined by the market.

    Rather than fast-food franchises, advertisements in the toilet stalls, corporate sponsored classrooms, curriculum shaped by the “common sense” of business,

    for-profit residences, corporate-run labs, dangerous infrastructure, buildings cleaned half as often as they should be, “re-run” television courses,

    on-line teaching assistants half way around the world,

    CUPE believes all students are entitled to a high-quality, public education system organized around the principles of social solidarity.

  9. CUPE demands that our public institutions not be privatized.

    CUPE demands public re-investment of the budget surplus in our post-secondary educational institutions.

  10. CUPE demands that private for-profit post-secondary institutions be absolutely rejected. We believe the people of Ontario deserve much better than this.

V. Conclusion

CUPE’s position is that quality education is advanced through the delivery of public services. CUPE members deserve good wages and benefits with decent working conditions, respect for our right to fair representation, the right to bargain and organize collectively.

Our rights will be undermined should private universities open in an anti-union environment. So too will employers attempt to undermine these rights in public universities through further contracting-out and privatization of services.

As citizens, we fought for our rights to public education. A private educational system is unfair to ordinary Canadians.

As workers, we need secure employment, as well as, good wages and working conditions in our university workplaces. Under funding allows corporations to turn our jobs into short-term contracts with fewer benefits for families increased workload lower-pay and a lot less security, ourselves.

As parents, we want our children to have the best our society can offer them. As students, we want an affordable educational system where we will find the space to think critically.

Corporations have put their money and influence to work in transforming post-secondary education so those students learn what corporate sponsors want them to learn. As CUPE members, we deserve much more.

We would like to initiate a public discussion of what a union perspective on “best practices” might look like in Ontario’s universities and colleges.

We want an educational system that is fully accessible, portable, of high quality, affordable and publicly administered.

We want a legislation that guarantees access, guarantees academic freedom, and establishes a democratic regulation of the post-secondary education system.

At CUPE, we embrace a solidaristic vision of society in which the diversity of the whole community is respected.

The most important people in Canada do not sit as directors on multi-national corporations. Neither are the people of Canada simply taxpayers.

We are citizens and we demand the fulfillment of our rights as citizens, including the right to a fully accountable education system created in the public interest.

As CUPE members, as citizens, as university workers, as students and as parents, we intend to make this provincial government accountable to the whole community, not just a privileged class of profiteers.

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