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Sherbrooke, Thursday, May 22, 2003 - As the saying goes: with time and patience everything is possible. This is certainly true for support staff assigned to research activities at the Université de Sherbrooke (UdeS) who, after 29 long months of bargaining, have accepted an agreement in principle. Discussions between the union representatives and university administration to define the terms of this agreement continued until yesterday afternoon (Wednesday); the agreement was finally approved by the union members.

On February 25 of this year, support staff assigned to research at the UdeS, 70% of whom are women, gave their union representatives a mandate to call a general strike. The agreement concluded yesterday evening avoids this recourse.

Lizette Dubé, representative for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE-FTQ) said that “this agreement gives the 120 employees assigned to research support activities working conditions comparable to the other support staff at the university. For example, minimum and maximum salaries will be practically identical and annual wage increases will become regular practice. This group has been waiting for such catch-up measures for a long time,” she added.

Agreement Highlights
The new labour contract will be in force until 2006. On signing, the employees will receive lump-sum payments consistent with government wage parameters for 2002 and 2003 that had not been paid, since the last labour contract had expired on May 31, 2001. For the next three years: 2004, 2005 and 2006, increases will be the same as those negotiated in Quebec’s public and para-public sector.

Another important clause settles the wage equity issue for this group. The salaries for job categories predominantly held by women will be adjusted retroactively as of November 21, 2001, the date prescribed in the Pay Equity Act. Women, as well as men, who assume these jobs, will therefore see their remuneration corrected and incorporated into wage scales.

Signing of the new labour contract also means that almost all employees assigned to research activities will have access to the pension plan. Previously, only seven or eight of the 120 employees in this group were able to participate in the plan.

The new collective agreement is expected to be signed between now and the end of June.

Support staff assigned to research activities are members of the Syndicat des employées et employés de soutien de l’UdeS (SEESUS), which represents some 1,100 support employees at the University; however, they are organized as a separate unit. This group obtained its very first collective agreement in 1998, following a long unionization process which took almost a decade and involved an extended legal battle between the University and SEESUS.

SEESUS is a major component in the university sector for CUPE, which represents 15,000 members in the education sector, 8,000 of whom work for Quebec universities, principally as support staff. CUPE is also active in several other sectors including communications, municipalities, health and social services, hydroelectricity, urban and air transportation, provincial corporations and public organizations and is the largest FTQ affiliate.

This press release and other information are posted on the Internet at scfp.qc.ca

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