Support staff strike largest in Carleton’s history

By Shelley Henderson
with notes from Riaz Sidi

As students arrived for the first day of fall classes on September 5, approximately 700 of the university’s support staff began strike action.

The employees are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 2424, which represents the university’s administrative, clerical and technical employees. This was the first CUPE Local 2424 strike in 27 years and the largest labour dispute Carleton had ever experienced.

Negotiations, which began in June, broke down earlier that morning. On the table were a number of monetary and nonmonetary issues, including pay, benefits, union representation at disciplinary meetings and sick leave for employees over the age of 65.

According to Stephen Green, Carleton’s chief negotiator, the university administration was disappointed that the union rejected the offer, which he described as competitive, given the current cost of living increases, comparisons between similar groups in Ottawa and recent settlements at other Ontario universities. “We considered our September 5 offer to be very fair.”

But Wiz Long, vice-president of internal communications for CUPE 2424, explains that “the strike was not about money and not about benefits, but about what we perceived as a lack of respect both at the bargaining table and for the work our members do at the university”

Ian Worte, a fourth-year Public Affairs and Policy Management student, says that he felt the effects of the dispute in many ways. For example, the Resource Centre at St. Patrick’s College was closed, which meant that he did not have access to some required reading material and, because his program administrator was on strike, he was unable to discuss the possibility of switching classes early in the term when it would have been realistic to make a change and start a new class.

While Worte read the updates on the Carleton website to understand the issues, he says he did not support either side. Asked for his reaction to the strike, he states that he and other students he knows “were annoyed and inconvenienced. We just wanted it settled.”

The two sides reached a tentative settlement on September 18, which was ratified by CUPE 2424 members the same day. Striking employees returned to work on September 19.

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