Sent Via Email on Monday, October 16, 2023
Dear President Shepard, Vice-President Logan, Associate Vice-President Konowalchuk, Associate Vice-President O’Brien, Associate Vice-President Challadurai,
RE: Strike of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 772
As representatives of more than 6,900 graduate students at Western University, the SOGS Executive Committee is writing to you to express our deep concerns regarding the ongoing strike of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 772 – a union of 13 operational engineers that keep Western University not only safe, but warm. This strike, which commenced on October 12, 2023, resulted from a failure of the university to negotiate in good faith with IUOE Local 772 regarding its Collective Agreement. This has also resulted in the injury of 3 people on picket lines.
Our concern is twofold: 1) by failing to negotiate in good faith, operating engineers cannot achieve pay equity or safe working conditions and 2) this strike disrupts bus access to campus impacting more than 43,000 students. As a student union that advocates for equity for students, the SOGS Executive Committee expects pay equity to be a top priority for Western University, especially in light of the recent ruling by the Ontario Superior Court that deemed Bill 124 – the Sustainable Public Sector Act – unconstitutional. Engineers across the province have been receiving yearly increases of between three and six percent, making it evident that the members of Local 772 have been faced with inadequate wages that are not competitive with market rates or industry standards in Canada.
Local 772 faces persistent staffing shortages and existing workers are being burdened with increased responsibilities. It is crucial to highlight that Local 772 has not sought an increase in benefits, premiums, or pensions, despite not seeing any adjustments for the last five years. This fact demonstrates a commitment to good-faith negotiations while advocating for fair wages.
The strike’s impacts resonate deeply within our SOGS membership. With all 11 LTC routes disrupted, and LTC buses unable to cross picket lines, our members now must walk from main roads to access the campus. For some of our members, this presents significant accessibility issues, making Western University an inaccessible campus.
We stand in solidarity with IUOE Local 772 and their quest for fair compensation. We urge Western’s administration to value and respect the important work carried out by operating engineers at Western University by providing better working conditions and equitable pay that aligns with engineers in the province.
It is our sincere hope that the University will engage in good faith bargaining with IUOE Local 772, with the ultimate aim of reaching a resolution that is fair and equitable for all parties involved. We hope our concerns are conveyed and urge Western’s administration to prioritize this issue for the benefit and safety of the entire community.
We look forward to a swift resolution and a return to normalcy for our graduate students.
SOGS 2023-24 Executive Committee
Waliu Alaka, President | Elizabeth Mohler, Vice-President Academic | Cherin Chung, Vice-President Advocacy | Sairam Gavajelli, Vice-President Finance | Kesavi Kanagasabai, Vice-President Student Services