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THE HANDSOME, IVY COVERED FACE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO CONCEALS THE DIRTY UNDERSIDE OF CANADAS PREMIER UNIVERSITY THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO PRESS SWEATSHOP

President of CUPE Local 3261 and leaders of the labour, social justice and academic communities demand that the University of Toronto put an end to its publishers disgraceful labour practices

TORONTO This employer is trying to force us into another strike, said Mehdi Kouhestaninejad, President, CUPE Local 3261 at a rally today in Toronto. The rally, held in front of a branch of the University of Toronto Book Store, attracted hundreds of supporters and a speakers list of prominent leaders from labour, social justice and the academic community.

Their message? In the words of Sid Ryan, President of CUPE Ontario, This university needs to take charge of its publishing company. The president of the U of T Press is behaving as if he is totally out of control with his desire to exact concessions from the workers. We often cry shame when someone commits an injustice. George Meadows should be very ashamed that he is trying to force these workers into accepting a weakening of the union and rollbacks on their benefits and rights. However, what is more shameful is the silence of Robert Birgeneau and the Governing Council of the university in letting Meadows make a mockery of everything the university claims to stand for.

As speaker after speaker excoriated the University of Toronto and the leadership of the U of T Press, the message was boycott, boycott at all levels. We call on every professor, every graduate student, every teaching assistant and every undergraduate at every university and college in Canada to boycott U of T Press publications. We call on everyone who might have any cause to consider any purchase from the U of T Press or bookstores to continue this boycott until Meadows and Birgeneau demonstrate an ability to repair the labour relations disaster which Meadows is creating and Birgeneau is condoning.

Kouhestaninejad defended his use of the term sweatshop after the rally. He pointed out that:

  • Last year, the U of T Press accumulated a surplus of $1.2 million. The employees, many of them providers for single income families are asking for a wage increase which would consume two per cent of this.
  • In 1992, when U of T incorporated the Press separately, there were 85 shipping and receiving employees. Now there are 25 to handle a workload which has easily quadrupled.
  • U of T Press workers want the same job security other university workers receive. The Press says they are unreasonable.
  • The U of T Press wants to strip job security and seniority from the Local union president and vice-president which would restrict employees from running for union office.
  • The U of T Press wants to undermine the grievance process by creating unnecessary restrictions to allow management to evade the issues.

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Contacts:
Mehdi Kouhestaninejad, President, CUPE Local 3261,
416 946-7620 (Office)
Mary Catherine McCarthy, CUPE National Representative,
416 274-2637 (Cell)

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, Canadas largest union, represents workers employed by both public and private sector organizations in health care, emergency services, education, municipalities, social services, libraries, utilities, transportation and airlines, and front-line water services. Founded in 1963 by the amalgamation of the National Union of Public Service Employees and the National Union of Public Employees, CUPE represents half a million workers, 160,000 of whom are in Ontario.