U of O Watch mission, in the words of Foucault...

"One knows … that the university and in a general way, all teaching systems, which appear simply to disseminate knowledge, are made to maintain a certain social class in power; and to exclude the instruments of power of another social class. … It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticise the workings of institutions, which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticise and attack them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them." -- Foucault, debating Chomsky, 1971.

U of O Watch mission, in the words of Socrates...

"An education obtained with money is worse than no education at all." -- Socrates

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

U of O and student union settle grievance about covert surveillance

This is What Erosion of Civil Rights Looks Like

(Historians take note)

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has recently (see as-received press release below) collaborated with a major university in Canada to legitimize a university's covert surveillance and covert information gathering against students.

In a classic sophistry of compartmentalizing civil and employee rights (reflected in the popularly recognized oxymoron "department of justice"), CUPE Local 2626, with the help of its provincial representative and a major labour law firm, signed a ludicrous "memorandum of understanding" with the University of Ottawa whereby the university is explicitly allowed to spy on student employees in their student and political activities.

The original grievance had arisen from documentary proof obtained via access to information (ATI) that the university had covertly spied on students, both in activist groups and in student institutional politics.

This CUPE-uOttawa aberration violates:
  • The UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personel, with Canada has signed
  • The UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • The legally established principle of academic freedom in the university workplace
  • And established world-wide norms of civil rights in free and democratic societies
This appears to be an illustration of how eager the managements of some unions are to avoid confrontations with employers on broad systemic issues relating to the dignity and political dimension of the employee.

The students themselves are largely responsible for allowing the union to subvert their rights in this way but all of Canadian society suffers the consequences. The graduate students at the University of Ottawa condone the degradation of Canadian society by their inaction. They will inherit the society and professional environment that they deserve.

As-received press release from physics graduate student Joseph Hickey:

Ottawa, October 21, 2010.

U of O and student union settle grievance about covert surveillance

CUPE Local 2626 informed its members (memo attached) that it had arrived at a legal settlement with the University of Ottawa in a “Major Grievance” involving alleged covert surveillance by the university against several of its members.

Graduate student and University Senate member Joseph Hickey was directly involved and is concerned that the settlement appears to legitimize a reprehensible practice of covert surveillance of CUPE members in their student and political activities.

“The fact that collected information about my campus politics will not be allowed in my student employee file is of little comfort” said Hickey.

Hickey has obtained records via an independent access to information ongoing appeal with the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario which show university officials denying his graduate school application (and, therefore, his employment) based on his “activist beliefs” and other personal information.

- 30 -

For more information please contact:
Joseph Hickey
University Senate member, University of Ottawa

For background in the matter and past media reports see:

---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: Bonne nouvelle : Résolution récente d'un grief important / Good
news: Recent resolution of Major Grievance
From: "SCFP - CUPE 2626"
Date: Thu, 21 October, 2010 4:00 am
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

[English follows below]

Cher membres du SCFP 2626:

Le SCFP 2626 est fier d'annoncer qu'il a récemment réglé un grief en cours depuis près d'un an lié à des mesures prises par l'Université d'Ottawa il y a deux ans contre certains membres du SCFP 2626 au moment où l'arbitrage allait commencer.

« Nous sommes très heureux de pouvoir régler ce grief avec l'aide de notre conseiller juridique de chez Raven, Cameron, Ballantyne et Yazbeck, LLP, a indiqué le président du Syndicat, Félix Grenier. Cette réalisation montre à nos membres que nous sommes prêts à aller jusqu'en arbitrage pour protéger leurs droits des travailleurs de notre association. »

En échange pour le règlement du grief par le Syndicat, l'Université a accepté dans un protocole d'entente, de ne pas recueillir de renseignements sur les membres du Syndicat dans leur rôle à titre de membre du Syndicat, et de ne jamais déposer, dans leur dossier d'employé, de renseignements recueillis sur les membres du SCFP dans leur rôle à titre d'étudiant ou d'activiste, ce qui constitue une importante victoire pour le Syndicat.

« De nombreux représentants syndicaux ont travaillé sur ce dossier et il s'agit d'un règlement raisonnable » a expliqué le représentant national du SCFP, Paul Boileau. Le Syndicat et l'Employeur peuvent maintenant rétablir une relation plus normale et améliorer la communication et la collaboration entre les deux parties. »

Si vous avez des questions sur le processus de grief ou sur les activités du SCFP 2626, n'hésitez pas à communiquer avec nous par courriel à l'adresse info@scfp2626.ca.

Félix Grenier
Président, SCFP 2626
Centre Universitaire, salle 303
Tél: 613-562-5345


Dear CUPE2626 member,

CUPE 2626 is proud to announce that it has recently resolved a long outstanding grievance, in regards to actions taken by the University of Ottawa two years ago against some CUPE 2626 members, just when arbitration was about to begin.

"We are very happy to settle this grievance with the assistance of our legal counsel from Raven, Cameron, Ballantyne and Yazbeck, LLP," President Felix Grenier said. "This shows our members that we are willing to go all the way to arbitration to protect their work-related rights."

In exchange for the Union closing the grievance, the University agreed in a memorandum of understanding that it did not gather or collect information on Union members in their roles as union members and would never place any information gathered or collected in CUPE members' roles as students or activists in their employee files, which is a significant victory for the Union.

"A number of union representatives worked on this file and it was a good settlement," CUPE national representative Paul Boileau said. “Now the union and Employer can return to a more normal relationship where there is better communication and co-operation between the two parties.

If you have any questions about the grievance process or CUPE 2626 activities, don't hesitate to contact us at info@cupe2626.ca.

Felix Grenier
President, CUPE 2626
University Centre, room 303
Tel: 613-562-5345


Anonymous said...

What an interesting turn of events. though I disagree with you calling DOJ as oxymoron.

Anonymous said...

Unions are a bad idea because they do not function in the interests of its members.

The role of the union is primarily to restrict the freedoms of its members so that the union can pursue financial incentives in order to privilege itself in society.

You criticize the inaction of students in this case, but what has the union, a "public" union, done in the city of Ottawa to address homelessness, poverty, drug problems, etc., i.e., social issues? Nothing. It made some meaningless statement about G-20, that's about it. It is only interested in getting a piece of the pie and preserving and enhancing privilege.

It is better that the union be dissolved, and that each person be free to engage the university in matters of redress. The individual that does so will have complete control to make sure that matters remain within the person's interests and are not abused by the union.

Some good and relief can come from unions, but overall, they are detrimental to society. Where is my civil liberty if the union restricts my actions by way of a "collective" agreement?

Fuck unions.

Anonymous said...

CUPE2626 will have a general assembly on Nov. 15. Members will discuss proposed changes to the by-laws:


Specifically, consider "Modification 6":

- The union's operational transparency is to be eliminated and replaced by secrecy. And anyone who wishes to hold a position of power within the union MUST sign a form to such effect. The officers of the union are not accountable to anyone and can do as they please.