Custodial and maintenance workers at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) represented by CUPE are starting their first-ever job action this morning after the university administration failed to address the rising cost of living and inequality in the pension plan during negotiations.

“This is historic. We’re people who usually quietly work away at keeping the university clean and operating smoothly. It takes a lot to get us riled up,” said Jason Vigilante, president of CUPE 233. “But we can’t be quiet when the employer unilaterally changes our pension plan and makes it so we’re paying a higher percentage than faculty.”

The two sides have been in negotiations since September, and CUPE has made it clear from the beginning that the pension dispute and a decent wage increase were issues that would lead to job action if left unresolved. The maintenance and custodial workers are seeking pension bargaining rights equivalent to those contained in the faculty association collective agreement.

“This is an issue of basic fairness, and the faculty association is on our side in this. What TMU is doing is wrong,” said Vigilante. “The resolution to all this is very simple. The administration already recognizes these rights in the faculty contract.”

On Wednesday, CUPE Ontario and the Ontario Federation of Labour both stated they would fully support the maintenance and custodial workers.

“Enough is enough. It’s time for this university to practice what it preaches and treat its workers fairly,” said CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn.

The local will escalate to full strike action on Monday if TMU does not address the concerns around cost of living and basic rights to bargain their pension.