Talks continue ahead of strike deadline for education workers at Carleton University
Contract talks continued Sunday evening to avert a potential strike by 3,000 graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants and contract instructors at Carleton University.
CUPE Local 4600 says its members will go on strike Monday morning if a new contract is not reached with the university.
In an update Sunday evening, Carleton said bargaining teams for the university and CUPE 4600 have been "negotiating all weekend and are still at the table working towards fairly negotiated collective agreements."
CUPE Local 4600 president Noreen Cauley-Le Fevre told CTV News Ottawa on Sunday the "major things that are on the table" still are wages for contract instructors and graduate assistants. Cauley-Le Fevre said the two sides remained at the bargaining table as of 10:45 p.m.
The union has said its members are looking for wages that will "help catch up the more than 10 per cent they have lost to inflation over the last decade", and want to bring salaries for contract instructors closer to what University of Ottawa contract instructors earn.
"Contract instructors at Carleton earn 15 per cent less than the contract instructors at the University of Ottawa, who are doing the same work, in the same city, with the same cost of living – so salary is a big thing," Cauley-Le Fevre said on Sunday.
"On campus, graduate students make up about seven per cent of the student population and we make up 80 per cent of the food bank usage. So teaching assistants, both units, have been hit by the rising cost of inflation.
"We're being hit really hard … so we need our wage increases."
Carleton University has said the campus will remain open for students, faculty, staff and members of the public in the event of a strike, but some classes, labs and tutorials may be cancelled. The university has released a list of classes that will be "disrupted" by a labour strike.
Carleton and the union have been in contract talks since August 2022.
On Friday, Carleton released its latest offer to Unit 1 (Teaching Assistants, some Research Assistants, and Service Assistants), and Unit 2 (Contract Instructors).
The offer to Unit 2 includes a salary market adjustment of 4.5 per cent retroactive to September 1, an increase to the base minimum stipend of 2 per cent retroactive to January 1, 2023, and an increase of 3 per cent in September 2023 and September 2024.
The offer to Unit 1 includes a salary increase of 3 per cent retroactive to Sept. 1, 2022 and a 2.5 per cent increase in 2023 and 2024.
The threat of a strike comes three weeks before the end of classes for the winter term and the start of exams. Exams are set to begin on April 15.
"I'm a little concerned in terms of class work, but I completely understand the position that the contract professors and TAs are coming from," student Shaye Yawlak said.
Cauley-Le Fevre says the goal of the bargaining team is to "secure a deal" at the table, and hopes the university will offer a deal that meets its members "bottom line".
"We don't take this lightly, that's why we keep showing up at the table," Cauley-Le Fevre said, adding all members care about the quality of education at Carleton University.
Carleton University says in the event of a strike, there will be no OC Transpo service on campus.
"OC Transpo will not cross the picket line to enter campus," Carleton said in an update on its website.
"Service will operate as usual, but pick up and drop off will be at the corner of Sunnyside and Bronson Avenue."
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 President Clint Crabtree tells CTV News Ottawa the labour movement needs to "stick together."
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