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CUPE 1975 rally aimed at getting the attention of the university administration

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Mark Hancock, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, addresses CUPE Local 1975 members during a rally in front of the Peter MacKinnon Building at the U of S in Saskatoon on March 19, 2019.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1975 held a rally in the Bowl at the University of Saskatchewan on March 19. Throughout their attempts to set a meeting with the U of S Board of Governors and university President Peter Stoicheff the union has been met with silence.

In contrast to the university’s silence, the rally was accompanied by a wall of noise with a powerful speaker system, dozens of noisemakers handed out to rally attendees and even some band instruments. The rally generated sounds of discontent that could be heard across campus.

The event drew in hundreds of workers and others from campus, including delegates from CUPE’s National Bargaining Conference that was taking place in Saskatoon at the time. Among the speakers at the event was Eric Neufeld, a professor in the department of computer science, who spoke for the U of S Faculty Association before CUPE National President Mark Hancock took to the podium.

The crowd made noise to garner the attention of the Board of Governors, who were having a meeting nearby during the rally. Many of the talks from those with CUPE revolved around their biggest point of contention during bargaining, this being maintaining the current defined benefits pension plan.

The crowd chanted “paws off our pensions” and cheered for the speakers enthusiastically. Energetic union members walked around with CUPE flags and signs with messages ranging from statements of discontent directed at the university to encouraging sentiments about fighting for their pensions and wages.

The rally evoked emotions from the crowd, and Hancock spoke after the event was over as to why this approach was taken.

“Being quiet and peaceful and just talking hasn’t found the solutions that we need,” Hancock said. “At this point, we’ve got to turn it up a little bit. We’ve got to put a little bit more pressure on the Board of Governors here and let students know, let parents know [and] let folks know that the situation is becoming critical here at the university.”

Jack Thompson / Sports & Health Editor

Photo: Heywood Yu

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