After seeing the employment situation of 46 staff members change, the Lister Hall Students’ Association has plunged into the new school year with the hope of still being able to provide funding for their positions.
Recent staffing changes aimed at eliminating a conflict of interest for dually-employed LHSA-Residence Services employees saw a vast majority of Lister Floor Coordinators turn down the paid Residence Services position that replaced their former job in favour of being employed solely by the LHSA.
Since Floor Coordinators (FCs) and Hall VPs no longer receive their monthly pay of $550 and $625 respectively from Residence Services, LHSA president Eric Martin said the LHSA is considering raising its membership fee in order to be able to pay those staff at least a portion of what they used to make.
“Now we have to employ all those people, and obviously we’re not paying them $500 a month — we can’t afford that — but we want to give them some amount of money,” he said.
“It’s in no way reflective of the amount of work they put in … so because of that, we’re planning to shift around a lot of money in our budget.”
SU President Colten Yamagishi agreed that the amount LHSA staff make does not reflect the work they put in.
“If (the LHSA) feel that those students should be getting the same amount they would have been during that dually-employed phase, then I definitely think that would be fair,” Yamagishi said.
“I think they should be getting paid a lot more for the amount of work they’re doing ... At the same time, it’s still student money funding it now, (so) it’s really their choice to make.”
Martin said nothing is set in stone yet, but there are plans to run a plebiscite in March to see where the student body stands on the issue. The current LHSA membership fee is $75.
“Obviously, we don’t want to (increase the fee) by 300 per cent. I think we’re looking at a $25 increase,” he said. “I think at that time people will see all that we do and all the FCs do.”
He added that the money collected from the increased membership fee would go towards Lister incentives as well, rather than just paying FCs.
“I don’t want to make it sound like all this money’s going to be focused just on employee wages — I want it to be increasing our programming efforts,” he said.
The university has offered the staff who did not accept the job with Residence Services four months’ severance pay to tide them over until they find other work — a lump sum of $2,200 for FCs and $2,500 for Hall VPs.
“It’s a lot more than I expected, to be totally honest,” Martin said. “(But) for me personally, it’s not so much about them getting that pay, but things like the training and stuff (they) expected going into this year, I would have really liked to have seen the LHSA FCs be able to attend that.”
Now that FCs are solely employed by the LHSA, Martin said they were denied their former Residence Services training.
“There was the worry that it would blur lines into who’s responsible for what in their staff,” Martin explained. “To some degree, I can see where they’re coming from … (but) again, there’s not an RA on every floor, so I would hope there’s somebody there to take care of those residents.”
Because the LHSA staff were denied Residence Services training, Martin said the LHSA executive developed their own last-minute training, which included how to take care of intoxicated residents, helping residents with language barriers and educating them in enforcing the new alcohol rules.
“I’m thrilled we trained them enough to know how to do that and be able to do that effectively,” Martin said. “I do really feel like (the move-in weekend) was a great success because we had an FC on every floor. I just think we’re really helping and having a huge impact, and it’s great to see that.”
In order to finance this training, the Students’ Union voted to approve $10,000 unbudgeted expenses, which was allocated to the LHSA in lieu of the training they would have otherwise received from Residence Services. Of the $10,000, Martin said less than $1,000 was spent in total.
“We ended up using about $20 for training materials,” he said. He added that first-aid training reached around $800. “I think we put on a great training for very little money,” Martin said.
Yamagishi said that the SU expected training programs to be very expensive.
“The LHSA was very lucky that a number of groups from campus and off campus in the community provided the training ... for free,” he said. “I was really surprised when I saw the final number.”
As part of their annual training, the LHSA takes a camping trip through HeLa Ventures. However, Martin said this year’s trip came entirely out of the LHSA’s budget.
“I asked (Yamagishi), Andy (Cheema) and Saadiq (Sumar) what (the $10,000) could cover — ‘Is this just speaker and training material costs, or can we get food provided to people, or can any of this be used towards the Camp HeLa trip?’ ” Martin explained.
“They were all past FCs, they all know that the Camp HeLa trip is a fun, relaxing trip ... so they made it very clear that no, as great as HeLa is, (they) can’t pay anything for that.”
Martin said that, in the wake of the Lister changes, the LHSA needs to shift its focus to future years, and added that the LHSA executives are all taking pay cuts.
“As much as we want to focus on putting on an amazing year this year for everybody, we very much have to look at next year and future years and how we’re going to operate,” he said.
“We’re more than happy to make less money each month so we can put it into this programming, or put some money towards the FCs getting something from us,” he said.
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