We write today with an update regarding the ongoing negotiations between the Support Staff of the University of Ottawa (SSUO) and the Central Administration. As reported in our September 14 bulletin, the last time the two parties met, very little progress was made toward reaching an agreement that is fair and equitable for support staff. The Central Administration returned to the table with an offer that was “virtually indistinguishable” from the final offer 80% of SSUO members voted to reject in June.
On October 15, the SSUO will participate in a mediation session with the Central Administration. Given that the Ontario Labour Board has already issued a “no board report,” the parties are in a legal strike / lock out position. As such, APUO members need to be prepared for the real possibility of a work disturbance that would directly impact APUO members and, potentially, bring many of our institution’s activities to a halt.
In the event of a work disturbance, the Central Administration may call upon you to take on tasks usually conducted by the Support Staff. In solidarity with our SSUO colleagues, we urge APUO members to exercise their right to refuse taking on any support staff tasks during any work disturbance.
Here are some activities for which support staff are responsible:
- supervising and managing the affairs and committees of academic units;
- at the undergraduate level, support staff provide support to numerous academic activities, for example, by posting and confirming grades, scheduling courses and exams, fulfilling professors’ work-related requests, following up on student appeals, overseeing course evaluations, sending exams to print, and working VENTUS;
- at the graduate level, support staff assist professors with the administrative aspects of admissions files, registrations, graduate supervision, thesis defences, and the distribution of internal and external scholarships;
- at the Library, support staff ensure e-journals and research databases are functioning properly;
- support staff also act as laboratory coordinators in some faculties, running laboratory components, delivering lectures, overseeing procurement, and serving on committees;
- support staff assist APUO members in pedagogical design for curriculum for online courses;
- for our University’s finances, support staff review, process, and approve all University invoices, journal entries, and therefore control the release of payments for APUO members’ expenses.
In addition to the above tasks, support staff also oversee many other operational facets of our University that directly impact upon student experience.
To date, the Central Administration’s approach to collective bargaining with the SSUO has been uncompromising. As noted in our December 2019 bulletin, the record-breaking 2018-2019 financial surplus of $91.8 million is equivalent to the total salary mass of SSUO members. On October 6, President Frémont announced that the University is reporting a surplus amounting to $36 million for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. In fact, during the last thirteen years the University has accumulated more than half a billion dollars of cumulative surplus ($ 557.26 million dollars precisely), which in part represents services not rendered to the university community.
The Central Administration’s refusal to deliver a fair and equitable deal points to a notable undervaluing of the contributions of SSUO members to the success of our University. Furthermore, APUO member workloads grow in tandem with the Central Administration’s position and its continued delays in filling the more than one hundred vacant support staff positions. As such, we invite APUO members to make it clear to their Deans that they will not take on support staff members’ tasks should there be a work action or lock out.
The APUO will provide more updates regarding a potential strike or lock-out in the coming days.