Carleton education workers vote ‘overwhelmingly’ against university’s latest offer, union says

Carleton University’s largest union said its members voted “an overwhelming majority” against the university’s latest contract offer at a special membership meeting on Friday.

This ad has not yet loaded, but your article continues below.

distro scale

The meeting was not a ratification vote, said CUPE Local 4600, which represents about 3,000 teaching and research assistants and contract lecturers. However, the results are “clear” and show members will support a strike from Monday if they don’t get what they want by the end of the weekend, the union said.

“The latest offer from the employer is not even keeping pace with inflation. It’s not about the workload or the quality of education,” said CUPE 4600 President Noreen Cauley-Le Fevre in a media release Friday night. “Our members have spoken. Carleton must act now to avert a strike.”

Carleton has been in negotiations with two units of CUPE 4600 since last August. Unit 1 includes teaching assistants, some research assistants and service assistants. Unit 2 represents contract teachers. Each entity has its own collective agreement, which is negotiated simultaneously, but by a separate negotiating team.

This ad has not yet loaded, but your article continues below.

As of Friday, Carleton had not posted a negotiation update on its website since Wednesday, when the university said it was “committed to negotiating fair compensation packages in a timely manner and having submitted significant multi-year pay increases for both entities.” The parties have agreed on a number of points and significant progress continues to be made.”

The university published a list of over 2,700 courses that were marked as either “continuing” (as planned) or “paused” (not taking place) in the event of a strike. Students were told to continue with the coursework and attend class if it was held.

A sticking point for the union is formulating a proposed cost-of-living adjustment that would ensure wages keep pace with inflation. CUPE argues that teaching assistant salaries have fallen more than 10 percent below the cost of living in Ottawa over the past decade, and that contract faculty who teach students are paid 15 percent less than their counterparts at the University of Ottawa.

This ad has not yet loaded, but your article continues below.

CUPE also argues that Carleton does not have a centralized process for providing accommodation to union members who need it, with a “fragmented” system that “has left many members feeling vulnerable to discrimination”.

There’s also no cap on how many students a teaching assistant can be responsible for, says CUPE, making the workload unbearable.

Both entities have given negotiating teams strong strike mandates. Unit 1 voted 93 percent in favor of a strike if the university doesn’t sweeten its offer, and Unit 2 voted 88 percent in favor, CUPE said.

The threat of strikes looms as Carleton enters the crucial final weeks before final projects are due. The exams start on April 15th.

Under a 2020 Carleton policy on work disruptions, individual faculty are in the best position to determine to what extent classes, seminars and laboratories will be affected by a strike and what action can be taken if the disruption lasts 10 days or less, but it states that academic standards should not be changed.

If the strike lasts more than 10 days, a university senate advisory panel would determine how to proceed, including the possibility of changing the schedule or extending the runtime.

Recommended by the editors


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *