The Manitoban has learned that the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) removed all pages promoting the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) from the day timer agendas distributed across campus this week and last.
UMSU council president Al Turnbull said in a statement that the decision to tear out the pages was the UMSU executive team’s response to a deal signed by last year’s executive committing UMSU to purchasing day timers with CFS in the 2013-2014 school year.
The current executive team says they only became aware that they were locked into that deal when they found a quote for cheaper agendas, but were told they would still have to pay the full cost of the original order—$60,000—to CFS if they wished to cancel their contract.
“After we were told that we legally could not provide the cheapest and best service for our students, we the executive decided that in an act of protest towards the egregious clause [contractually binding] our organization, and the needless wasting of our students’ money [ . . . ] the federation should be removed from all the handbooks,” said Turnbull to the Manitoban.
UMSU vice president external Christian Pierce published an open letter in the Manitoban this summer detailing his team’s side of the agenda saga.
Dissent from this year’s UMSU council towards CFS comes at a tumultuous time for the federation. It was announced last week that at least 15 student associations from across Canada would participate in a mass-defederation effort, beginning with circulating petitions amongst their members.
As for UMSU, council recently struck an ad hoc committee to review the union’s relationship with CFS. The committee is expected to start its work soon.
CFS internal coordinator Brent Farrington had a slightly different interpretation of events than Turnbull. Farrington told the Manitoban that the only reason UMSU could not cancel their contract was that production had already started on the agendas.
“You can certainly cancel [the contract] at any time. We were telling him that the contract for the books had already been passed on to the printers. It was fully in production [ . . . ] It is kind of weird the way he is framing it. It is not the case that it was signed and then he called and was, like, ‘oh, sorry there is an error, we’d like to terminate it,’ which would have been fine,” said Farrington on Monday.
Farrington went on to say that although he has not seen the quote that UMSU was given, it is unlikely UMSU could have found agendas comparable in quality for cheaper than the CFS rate.
“[The UMSU executive] had said in [their] open letter that it was an excess of $10,000 in savings compared to the CFS books [ . . . ] for the number of books that would be produced, if they did a lot of it in just two-colour or one-colour, or just black-and-white, and used non-recycled paper stock, used just standard inks, then yeah, it could be feasible that that would be the case [ . . . ] if you produced something that was a far lower quality book, you could certainly reach that kind of number.”