Laurentian University SignTuesday’s federal fall economic statement included an important win for university workers that will avoid the kind of devastation seen at Laurentian University in Sudbury last year, says the main union representing university workers in Ontario.

“The use of the corporate restructuring process at Laurentian University was devastating for students and staff, Sudbury and Northern Ontario, as well as Indigenous and Franco-Ontarian communities. The Ontario auditor general was clear that it was not necessary to use the CCAA, but the Ford government chose this path in order to avoid their responsibilities to these communities,” said Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario.

The federal government listened to public sector unions’ demands, announcing in the fall economic statement that they will exclude public post-secondary institutions from the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, CCAA, and other federal bankruptcy legislation. The bankruptcy case at Laurentian University revealed that the CCAA could be used to bypass obligations in collective agreements and to avoid accountability for failed governance.

CUPE and other unions pressed the federal government to ensure that what happened at Laurentian University wouldn’t happen again, pointing out that provincial governments should be the backstop for decision making if post-secondary education institutional governance fails. In the public sector, restructuring priorities must be determined through a democratic and transparent process and should never be left primarily to financial interests – doing so abdicates public sector responsibility and accountability. 

“At Laurentian, we saw a failure of governance that was paid for by workers, students and communities that did not create the problem. This announcement from the federal government is the result of a successful campaign by CUPE and other public sector unions to ensure that what happened at Laurentian University doesn’t happen again,” said David Simao, chair of CUPE’s Ontario University Workers Coordinating Committee.