Support Staff Strike Updates

Dear members,
 
Since Monday, the Support Staff of the University of Ottawa (SSUO) have been striking against wage and benefit cuts, an orphan clause in their collective agreement, and continued vacancies in their bargaining unit. Contrary to what the Central Administration has been reporting, it has not proposed any compromises to the SSUO to facilitate ending the strike. The best way to pressure the Central Administration to propose a fair and equitable deal for the SSUO is to mobilize our University community’s support for our striking colleagues and friends. 
 
Here are some actions you can take to support their efforts:
 

  • We invite members to self-organize solidarity pickets with the SSUO. And, if you do arrange a solidarity picket, please let us know so that the APUO can relay the message to the SSUO and follow up with a list of picket locations. We also encourage you to take photos of your picket that the APUO can share on its social media platforms. Please note that, in accord with public health guidelines, picket lines are limited to a maximum of 25 people. If you have or are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, we ask that you not participate in a picket. If you have any doubts, we invite you to use the COVID-19 self-assessment tool
     
  • Because support staff are currently locked out of their university email accounts, we invite our members to send us short statements of support and solidarity for the SSUO. We will pass on your statements to the SSUO to be shared with our picketing colleagues to let them know we stand with them in their fight for a fair and equitable deal, and that we highly value them and their work.
     
  • We also invite members to express their support for the SSUO on social media by using the hashtags #FairDealNow4SSUO, #uOttawa, #Respect. There also are Facebook profile picture frames that you can find by typing “SSUO” in the Facebook frame search bar. 
     
  • Students are also having to contend with the consequences of the SSUO strike. We encourage members to take the time to explain to students how the SSUO strike may affect them, to discuss with them the immense contribution of our support staff to our University, and why a strike is necessary. Student support for the SSUO is crucial at this time. We’ve created short point-form notes to assist in informing your discussions with students.  
     
  • We cannot overemphasize the importance of members exercising their right to refuse to take on tasks usually undertaken by support staff during this strike. When APUO members undertake SSUO tasks, it diminishes the impact of the strike and eases the pressure on the Central Administration to give up its uncompromising position. The sooner this strike impacts the functioning of our institution, the more likely we are to see it end quickly. As a reminder, we invite you to consult the following bulletin for a description of support staff responsibilities that may directly impact your work or that you may be asked to take on.
     
  • If there are unfulfilled tasks usually completed by support staff that impact upon your ability to do your work, we encourage you to write to your Dean and to Jacques Frémont at president@uottawa.ca

 
Our continued solidarity and support for the SSUO are essential to quickly put an end to this strike. 

APUO Statement

Dear members, 
 
The APUO unequivocally apologizes for the communication sent to members last Friday. We should have consulted with our members broadly and, in particular, members of the BIPOC caucus who are directly affected by systemic racism on a regular basis. In neglecting to do so, we sent a communication that failed to acknowledge the complex relationship between academic freedom and the realities of systemic racism and, especially, the ways in which the former can contribute to the latter. We should have recognized this, particularly in the context of the global Black Lives Matter movement and the many incidents of racism on and off campus. This directly influences our working, pedagogical, and personal relationships here at the University of Ottawa. We are firmly committed to moving forward on this issue and doing the hard work to be better allies to BIPOC communities.
 
We condemn in the strongest possible terms the bullying, cyber-bullying, doxxing, discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and threats to which members of our community have been subjected. These actions have absolutely no place at our University. They serve only to steer us away from one another and from our common objective of establishing a safe environment in which to exchange and share knowledge. Any member finding themselves in such a situation can count on the APUO’s full support. At a time in which our community is under immense pressure having to contend with the Covid-19 pandemic, the SSUO strike, and a series of racist incidents on campus,[1] we must not lose sight of the fact we are all part of this university community. The APUO asks for respect and support among members, our students, our SSUO colleagues, and every member of the uOttawa community. 
 
The APUO will continue to vigorously defend the rights of all of its members as outlined in our collective agreement, including academic freedom. This said, in the defence of one principle, like academic freedom, we cannot abandon our objective of addressing systemic racism and ensuring a respectful, safe, and equitable university community for all. It is incumbent on all of us to examine the structures that contribute to systemic racism. We hope to work with all of you in addressing the current challenges we are facing as professors and librarians.
 
As your Union Executive, we can and must do better. The APUO will follow up on this message.
 

 
[1] The APUO is very troubled to have learned through a statement issued Monday night by our University that another racist incident has taken place on our campus this week. This incident is but one of many brought to the attention of members within the last year by the APUO.

Support Staff Strike on Monday

Dear members,
 
Yesterday, we provided an update on the state of collective bargaining between the Support Staff of the University of Ottawa (SSUO) and the Central Administration. Both parties participated in a mediation which, unfortunately, did not result in a tentative agreement.  Our fellow 1,300 support staff friends and colleagues will be going out on strike as of the morning of Monday, October 19 unless a settlement is reached between now and then.  At this time, however, no new negotiation dates are scheduled between the two parties. Put simply, APUO members should be prepared for work disruptions next week. 
 
President Frémont, vice-president Bourgeois, and Provost and vice-president Scott’s disrespect of the SSUO’s massive strike vote last fall, and of the support staff’s equally overwhelming rejection of the Final Offer they tabled last June is set to have grave consequences on the quality of the student experience as of next week. Like APUO members, our support staff friends and colleagues have gone above and beyond in fending off the challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Central Administration’s attempts to capitalize on an already difficult context to bully support staff into accepting wage and benefit cuts, an orphan clause, and continued vacancies in their bargaining unit marks a low point in our University’s history. 
 
The Central Administration’s uncompromising stance does not bode well for the APUO’s upcoming collective bargaining which is set to begin in a few months. Inter-union solidarity has seldom been more important than this year. 
 
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. We also encourage you to pass on any work requests usually undertaken by support staff to your Dean’s Office, and to the President and Vice-Presidents’ Offices.  
 
As a reminder, 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. 

The APUO is in close communication with the SSUO. We will continue to keep you informed of developments and the support that can be provided to our support staff colleagues.

Update on SSUO Collective Bargaining

Dear members,
 
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.