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MacHall lease negotiations near December deadline

By Chris Adams, September 11 2014 —

The Students’ Union generates around $18 million in revenue from businesses and events held in MacHall every year. But that money may be in limbo with their lease agreement on the building set to expire Dec. 9.

MacHall’s operating agreement, signed by the administration and SU, allows the SU to manage the building and collect revenue from its businesses. Most food vendors, the Den and Conference and Events are run by the SU. Concerts held in MacHall — acts like Modest Mouse and Ellie Goulding — also generate revenue for the SU.

SU vice-president operations and finance Adam Swertz is optimistic about the SU’s future in MacHall.

“We’re the Students’ Union. You’re not going to get us out of the students’ centre,” Swertz said.

The SU has been negotiating with administration since last year, with the new executives beginning discussions earlier this summer.

Swertz said the agreement could be better, calling some of the language ambiguous.

“If one side is unhappy with how something is getting interpreted, then it’s kind of ‘how do you resolve that?’ ” Swertz said. “That’s obviously fairly serious when two groups are trying to manage the same building.”

Some aspects of the agreement leave certain duties unregulated. Swertz used MacHall’s cleaning schedule as an example, as the agreement states that the SU will clean their portion of the building while administration cleans theirs.

However, cleaning duties ended up getting split between the two parties on a day and night cycle.

Swertz hopes to work these discrepancies out with a more accurately worded agreement.

“From our end, if we could sign an agreement that could do everything the current one does, but much cleaner, I would have no problem signing it,” Swertz said. “Obviously we’ve been hugely successful in this current agreement and we’d be happy to continue with it.”

In a statement, vice-provost student experience Susan Barker said administration’s goal is to ensure students have an “outstanding experience” in MacHall.

“This together with the long-term master development plan for the buildings will ensure that students continue to be provided with high-quality facilities and services,” Barker said.

Swertz said while there are no major priority clashes between the SU and administration, negotiations still have a bottom line.

“There’s always a question of cost, which any negotiation is going to come to. If you look at the amount of deferred maintenance, our facilities are only funded up to a certain level of quality or service. We operate essentially on a two out of a scale of one to five, five being excellent,” Swertz said.

Former SU president Raphael Jacob and vice-president operations and finance Eric Termuende were at a stalemate with administration by the end of their terms.

Swertz said talks were unsuccessful due to differing negotiating styles, saying both sides were “trying to find a playing field.”

To remedy this, members of the SU formed a sub-committee to work out the smaller details in the agreement. They have been meeting bi-weekly, with the larger negotiation committee meeting every month. They hope to have a “skeleton-structure” ready for administration this semester.

 

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