Carleton University faculty vote gives union a strike mandate

An association representing hundreds of faculty members at Carleton University voted 73 per cent in favour of giving the union a strike mandate. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg

A faculty association at Carleton University says its members have voted 73 per cent in favour of a strike — the latest development in an ongoing, strained bargaining process with the school’s administration.

Members of the Carleton University Academic Staff Association are not going on strike as a result of the vote — but the outcome gives the union the authority to call a strike, if it’s in a legal position to do so.

READ MORE: Carleton University’s faculty union to hold strike vote

The association represents 850 faculty, professional librarians and instructor employees at the Ottawa university.

In an email Friday, a spokesperson for the union said the majority vote in favour of a strike gives its negotiatiing team “added leverage” and “will serve to balance the power at the bargaining table” moving forward.

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“It shows that our membership is serious about wanting to reach a fair deal,” communications assistant Josh Horton said in an email.

READ MORE: Ontario Liberals introduce legislation that would end York University strike

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The association’s latest collective agreement with Carleton expired more than a year ago. The two parties began negotiations for a new contract in August and have had more than 25 bargaining sessions since. Along the way, disputes have arisen over issues like salaries, pay equity, pensions and benefits, including supplementary coverage during parental leave.

Asked for Carleton’s reaction to the results of the strike vote, a university spokesperson said “it is common for unions to seek strike mandates during the bargaining process.”

“We are confident the teams will successfully conclude negotiations on a new collective agreement,” media relations officer Steven Reid said in an email.

Union representatives began sounding alarm bells earlier this month after university administration told them it had applied for a conciliator from the Ontario Ministry of Labour. In a post published on the faculty association’s website May 2, the association called Carleton’s move a “procedural ambush on the negotiation process” and based on the university’s behaviour to date, the union had “reason to believe” the school was “preparing for an unnecessary lockout.”

READ MORE: York University offers tuition credits to students affected by strike

Carleton argued that getting a provincial negotiator would be helpful to both sides because of the time spent so far at the bargaining table. Without explicitly pointing fingers at the union, the university insisted in a statement May 8 that “raising the possibility of a lockout, when none is planned, increases tension unnecessarily.”

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The school also said it reached out to the faculty association several times to propose bringing a mediator into the picture, but the union never responded. On May 9, the union then asked Carleton to enter mediation, which the university accepted. Despite this, the faculty association proceeded with a strike vote.

Carleton already faced a month-long strike earlier this year after a different series of negotiations took a turn for the worse. CUPE Local 2424 and the university struck a tentative deal to end that strike on April 2.

READ MORE: Carleton University reaches tentative agreement to end strike

Representatives from the faculty association and Carleton last met earlier this week and have four more meetings at the bargaining table from May 26 to May 29, assisted by a mutually agreed upon arbitrator. Reid said Carleton has withdrawn its original request for conciliation as a result of the move to mediation.

The union announced the results of its strike vote on its website Thursday night, after two days of polls on campus.

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