unionization and strikes at Guelph University

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Written by michael brookfield

Unions would not be necessary if employers treated their workers fairly - but they rarely do. The University of Guelph is now simply another large bureaucratic organization in which ‘screw the workers’ is the order of the day. Unionization is necessary at Guelph given the ignoring of agreed due process and attempts to change firm agreements which the University of Guelph administration has been guilty of for at least ten years. I have personal experience of the attitude of the Guelph University administration, having taken the University to court (without the support of the then non-unionized U of G Faculty Association of which I had been a member for at least 35 years) for failing to follow agreed procedures and finding that I lost because non-unionized agreements have no standing in law (I had one lawyer - the University had at least six at the hearing - your tax dollar at work! - and these are the people who say they are short of money ). Ask yourself why the staff found it necessary to join the steelworkers union (hardly a good fit) and why the U of G Faculty association found it necessary to unionize - because the U of G administration decides to do exactly what they like with no consideration for anything except their own power egos - least of all the students (the grad students, the most easily intimidated of all members of the University nearly had a strike a while back). The U of G is, as someone so neatly put it to me, going to hell in a handcart because of the ignorance, incompetence, and underhand devious manipulations of many of its current administrators. I left the University of Guelph early, this January, after 38 years as a faculty member because I was tired of the mean-spirited and vindictive attitude of the administration to any questioning, criticism, or advising of practices which might constitute criminal negligence. I now thankfully have a Faculty position in China where, despite the greater control than in Canada, you can bank on competent administrators following procedures, rather than spouting self-serving pious nonsense about consultation and consideration and then doing the opposite -which is what happens at the University of Guelph.
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  1. Posted by: j on Feb 18, 2008 @ 11:49pm

    Dr. Brookfield,

    This article is just ranting and rambling on about nothing. What did the University admin actually do? Something a little more concrete than what amounts to saying "they're mean and they suck."

    To be honest, it's pretty clear what side of a potential strike you may be on. However, you'll forgive me if I find it difficult to support the faculty using students as pawns to increase their "meager" (read: $70-120k/yr) salaries.

  2. Posted by: TBK on Feb 19, 2008 @ 3:26pm

    I have seen just as many negatives resulting from unions. I have been a part of the public service sector for the last 4 years and in that time I have found that many people hide behind the union using it as an excuse not to do work or not to work hard. They feel that everyone owes them something and that they should only have to fulfill the bare minimum of what is required of them. In addition, managers are unable to fire people who really shouldn't be working there (i.e. they are stealing from their employer) because that person can launch a grievance and be given their job back in a week. Finally, in my experience, unions uses as much to more intimidation than employers. If you even utter some dissatisfaction with the union you are alienated at work and can even have people picket your house and follow you home from work threatening you to get in line with the union.
    Unions are necessary as I have also seen many jobs (including my mother's) saved by the union and it is nice to know that my job is protected by the union however they are hardly a shining example of all that is good in the world.

  3. Posted by: TBK on Feb 19, 2008 @ 3:27pm

    PS, It was our tuition dollars, not our tax dollars that paid for those lawyers. Also, I hardly think that China is a good example of employers treating their employees fairly and without any intimidation.

  4. Posted by: Anon on Feb 21, 2008 @ 12:09pm

    For someone who worked at Guelph for over 35 years, this author should know we're called the "University of Guelph" and not "Guelph University". It would be great if he used our proper name consistently!

  5. Posted by: on Mar 4, 2008 @ 11:23pm

    I hardly think that the use of Guelph's "official title" is relevant to the issue - though he did use the proper name repeatedly throughout his letter. One mistake should hardly be enough to condemn a man.

    I was a student of Dr. Brookfield during his time at the University of Guelph, and I found him to be an astute man with a great passion for his work. I can therefore only assume that whatever the University admin did to cause his resignation must have been exceptionally 'mean-spirited'. He is one of the few professors I have been taught by who have genuinely earned my respect, so I am more willing to hear his opinions than the opinions of those only intend to find fault in others.

  6. Posted by: Aaron on Mar 6, 2008 @ 12:44pm

    As far as im concerned, any group that uses students and my 6000$ tuition fee as a bargaining chip is against me.

    Simple as that.

  7. Posted by: John L on Mar 7, 2008 @ 11:41pm

    Brookfield may well be a good professor, however he's acquired a rep over the years for being a little, well, "eccentric". Put another way don't take his view on an issue as being as straightforward as he claims.

  8. Posted by: michael brookfield on Mar 10, 2008 @ 5:41am

    I do not normally respond to comments on an email I wrote as people have the right to say what they like without a come-back. But, after reading many of the responses, I feel I have to say something. First - IT IS NOT ABOUT MONEY - as some people seem to think. I work and stay with villagers in Asia who have NO money and manage very well. I would have been happy to work for $50,000 or less (which is a lot more than many people earn in Canada) IF the evaluation of one's contributions to teaching and research at Guelph were based on objective, measurable criteria rather than on what some 'asshole' Chairman or Dean thought you were worth (it is easy to manipulate the arse-licking toadies who form the bulk of the Faculty). Second, students will eventually have to deal with the sort of people I have had to deal with at Guelph, so they had better be prepared. I am now safely in a research position in Taiwan - a democracy that you should support against the machinations of the Peoples' Republic of China

  9. Posted by: on Mar 10, 2008 @ 5:59am

    One other thing - why is it that hardly anyone on this site is prepared to give their email - I am in China for Christ sake - I can hardly do you any damage from here.

  10. Posted by: on Mar 10, 2008 @ 4:48pm

    If you are so worried about people who comment on your article not leaving their email---there's mine. I was the one that wrote the response article to yours, apparently putting me in the "arse-licking toadies" camp. On a serious note, if you want to be taken seriously, write seriously. Calling out the Chairman, Dean and vast number of faculty members as 'assholes' and 'ass licking toadies' is really unprofessional, and you do yourself, and your cause a great disservice by using these juvenile insults.

    Finally, my comment on it being about money, was, and was clearly stated to be an assumption--which i used as support of my main point: i could be wrong, it may not be about the money, but it would be nice if someone told students what the issues were so we didn't have to guess and weren't left in the dark.

    PS: for someone who is so pro-democracy, you certainly seem to have an issue with people speaking their mind.

  11. Posted by: on Mar 12, 2008 @ 12:37pm

    And my email as well.

    A side note. You should have said Taiwan or the Republic of China in your original rant seeing as I, like most people, assume when someone says "China" they are speaking of The Peoples Republic of China.

    Finally, calling people "assholes" and "arse-licking toadies" is hardly objective nor is it helpful in any way. Maybe take some of your own advice.

  12. Posted by: on Mar 22, 2008 @ 8:43pm

    Theirs my email if it satisfy you. First of all, don't talk about the Taiwan China issue, you are clearly way to bias to know what your talking about. I have family on both sides of that conflict, so I can objectively say that Taiwan is philosophically and legally wrong on this issue.

    I don't agree with the PRC's antics in the past decade, but the reality is, if Taiwan is the only side of the border you've worked in, just stay out of the conflict. Its not your land, not your people, your just a foreigner. Don't insult me with your "democracy" rhetoric, Iraq is a democracy, what does that mean?

  13. Posted by: on Mar 22, 2008 @ 8:44pm

    Second, to address the main point, I'm actually a grad student and a TA with CUPE. I am happy with the way I've been treated and I expect no less, nor no more. I personally don't think the majority of TA's pull their weight. The tone the Union chooses to take is appalling, we are not in a communist country. They are NOT my brotherssisters.

    The University has graciously given me the funding and the opportunity and I am greatful for that. If you feel grad students have reason to complain? I applied to schools across Canada and the continental United States, Guelph was the most generous and I do not regret my decision that I came here.

    My TAship covers my tuition, plus more. The argument that "you can't live off a TA's wage"... try working at Starbucks PT. Its not meant to pay your entire cost to be here, that would be next to impossible. However, with the half-TAship im getting in the summer, it at least pays my tuition and rent.

    Seems more like a scholarship than anything else.

  14. Posted by: Ken (for the last time) on Mar 22, 2008 @ 8:50pm

    My biggest concern as a TA (labour) is something I guarantee you the Union won't... correction... refuse to protect me from. I fulfil my duty as a TA, I grade, lead tutorials and I put in my hours, without getting screwed of course.

    The loser next to me decides he doesn't want to show up to office hours, doesn't want to do his share of the grading (the prof does them), while I pull my weight.

    At the end, if professor complains, loser over there goes crying to the Union, even though he didn't fulfil his hours. In the end, prof gives in, University tells prof to let it go to avoid the wrath of the Union.

    All the while, I actually did what I was suppose to do, loser ends up the winner cuz he did less work. Whose going to protect me from that?

    The Union won't. So much for fighting injustice, cuz the Union just caused one

  15. Posted by: Anon on Apr 21, 2009 @ 3:47am

    John Sakaluk is a joke.

  16. Posted by: christoff on Jun 9, 2009 @ 1:26am

    not as big of a joke as cailey campbell. but maybe were not supposed to take her and her invalid studies seriously?

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