On Friday October 30, 2020 the University of Ottawa posted a very brief statement on their website, mentioning that they were able to reach a “tentative agreement” with the Union that represents 1300 of their support staff. While the statement mentions that details will not be made public until it is ratified by the board and the union, MTN was able to speak directly to some of the union protestors and find out what some of the key issues were for the initially failed negotiations.
On Tuesday, October 27, in an exclusive interview with an MTN reporter, one of the support staff members protesting in front of the University of Ottawa’s Main Campus opened up about some of the major issues that needed to be addressed. Among the primary issues where negotiations had failed between the University of Ottawa and the SSUO are over concerns regarding cuts to extended health coverage and failure to replace retired or vacated positions repeatedly.
Kathleen, a support staff member at the University of Ottawa explained “when a staff members quit and they leave for other jobs, or they retire, those positions need to be filled. The university has been keeping those positions empty and dividing up the work load between other existing staff members.” She explained that such actions are likely motivated by the institution’s intentions to cut costs even further for support staff and it becomes increasingly difficult for the remaining workers to keep accepting more workload from those vacant positions.
Kathleen also shared that the University had also cut health coverage for support staff to a point that they now had to pay up to $3000 out of pocket for prescription medication. According to her there had been roughly a 20% cut to the covering they used to receive.
The University and the Union representing its Support staff have been in negotiations for over 19 months but they failed to come to an agreement which had led to a strike being called early in October 2020. You can read the full article about the strike here. At this moment, it is not known if the issues of filling vacant positions and bringing back original amount of health coverage are among the areas over which a tentative agreement has been reached.