CUPE vs. sushi

CUPE is proposing a boycott of Bento Sushi. Photo - Brett Nielsen

CUPE is proposing a boycott of Bento Sushi. Photo – Brett Nielsen

CUPE unhappy with non-union hirings, organizing boycott

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 5791, the union of Regina food-service employees, is attempting to organize a student boycott of the new Bento Sushi outlet on campus.

The union is upset with Compass Group Canada, parent company of Chartwells, for hiring non-union employees rather than CUPE members to staff the new Bento Sushi location in the Laboratory Building. In retaliation, the union has been attempting to rally students to boycott Bento through flyers and online.

“If you support workers having a fair wage and the protection that belonging to a union provides,” read the flyers posted around the U of R last week, “please don’t shop at Bento Sushi on campus.”

According to the flyers and the CUPE website, “The Union [CUPE 5791] believes this is an attempt to ‘bust’ the Union and to erode the bargaining unit. If this is allowed with Bento Sushi, what is to stop the other franchises from also deciding to employ their own non-Union staff?”

The issue of contracting out union services is addressed directly in the 2014/2015 Collective Agreement between CUPE and the University of Regina.

“In order to provide job security for the members of the bargaining unit,” the agreement reads, “the Employer [U of R] agrees that it will not reduce pay or benefits or lay off any employees or permanent employees in order to contract out the duties normally performed by members of the bargaining unit; nor will the Employer replace laid off permanent employees by contracting out the work which they would normally perform.”

Despite the collective agreement clearly prohibiting any direct loss of employment when U of R contracts out food services, union members are still worried, especially about what this means for the future of their collective bargaining unit.

“You can’t negotiate together, you can’t collectively bargain together,” CUPE 5791 President Jamie Mellor told Global News in a recent interview. “Everybody needs to earn the same wage and collect the same benefit in the same work environment and that’s not happening here.”

Unsurprisingly, Food Services declined to comment.

“We’re not supposed to talk about that,” said the stern woman with the crossed arms when we asked.

While no official CUPE representative could be reached for comment, a union member who wished to remain anonymous told the Carillon “we would gladly have them [Bento Sushi employees] in the union. We’d love to have them! Why shouldn’t we share the same kind of benefits and all be protected under the same agreement? We are not against them… they should be like Tim Horton’s and Subway.”

When we asked if they believe that students will support the proposed boycott, our source said, “Everybody is free to choose. It depends on people’s beliefs.”

Some of the students that the Carillon spoke with are taking the side of the union in the dispute.

“Why should they [Bento Sushi] have the freedom to not be part of the union? It seems kind of ridiculous to me.” said Taylor Towle, an engineering student.

When asked if he will be participating in the boycott, Towle said, “yes, I will… I don’t like sushi anyway.”