We know that the “S” word is stressful—the prospect of a strike on campus evidently worries students who witnessed similar legal job actions in colleges and universities in the recent months because of the difficult climate in our sector. Below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions that arise among students every time a collective agreement expires and the need to bargain requires strike mobilization.
We encourage our members to copy and paste this FAQ and incorporate it in their teaching materials online and in class while we wait to see if the employer will bargain a fair collective agreement for all APTPUO members.
- So soon? Again? Why? ! ?
Our last collective agreement was only for one year, which explains is why we are doing this process again.
- Does voting “yes” for a strike mandate vote mean that we’re going on strike?
No! A strong strike mandate vote does not mean we are going on strike. A “yes” vote empowers our bargaining committee and demonstrates to the employer that the Association is taking a firm and united position. We truly wish to see a resolution to the bargaining process as soon as possible.
Even with a “yes” vote, there are still significant steps that must take place before the APTPUO is in a legal strike position. In the last round of our bargaining, we had a strong strike mandate vote, which ultimately helped us avoid a strike.
- What could happen after a successful strike mandate vote?
On January 11, 2019, we requested that both parties meet with a Conciliation Officer appointed by the Ontario Ministry of Labour. If both parties are unable to find a resolution, the conciliator then files a “no-board” report. The “no-board” report informs the Ministry of Labour that both parties are too far apart to reach an agreement.
After the “no-board” report is filed, we begin a mandatory wait period of 17 days before the Association would be either in a legal strike or lockout position.
The employer may request to the Ontario Labour Relations Board that the APTPUO hold a “final offer” special general membership meeting (SGMM) where the membership has to vote on the final offer made to the Association before going on strike. For more information, visit the Ontario government’s website on this matter.
- Would classes still be in session if there is a labour conflict?
The regular operations of the University of Ottawa would be severely disrupted if a lockout or a strike occurs. In case of such a labour disruption, employees and students should expect information pickets, picketing by allies, and potential slowdowns getting on and off campus. We encourage our supporters not to cross picket lines. Classes taught by full-time professors may or may not be cancelled, as the level of support at the picket line remains to be seen. You can support the part-time professors and help them to prevent a strike by getting informed and sharing the news about our current bargaining round.
- What would happen to the current session if there is a labour conflict?
The APTPUO would negotiate with the University of Ottawa to complete the school year immediately following the end of the strike. This has routinely been negotiated between other unions and universities throughout Ontario in the past.
- I heard students may lose credits if there is a labour conflict. Is this true?
In the history of Ontario universities, no post-secondary student has ever lost credits due to a strike. In every instance, the unions and universities successfully negotiated and adjusted the school year so that students could complete their courses. While we don’t know the specifics of potential strike remediation, its protocols would aim to impact the student population as little as possible.
- What would University of Ottawa do if there is a labour conflict?
It is not known at this time. The University of Ottawa has not been forthcoming with their students and has not declared a contingency plan for students in the event of a strike. This has caused uncertainty and anxiety for students, which is why we produced this FAQ.
- If there is a labour conflict, this will affect me negatively. Can this be avoided?
The APTPUO has no control over a possible lockout; the University has the legal power to decide to take such action. If you do not wish to have your part-time professors locked out, contact the University administration and tell them to bargain a fair collective agreement as soon as possible.
If the APTPUO accepts the proposals of the employer as they currently stand, students of uOttawa will be affected negatively by a reduction to their quality of education, while their fees (be they tuition, ancillary, or administrative) may continue to rise—despite promises made by the current provincial government. Current and future employees of uOttawa may also suffer from cutbacks in their wages and working conditions, while their responsibilities may continue to increase.
- Are part-time professors just being stubborn? Why can’t an agreement be reached?
The part-time professors have tabled several proposals that they feel are very important pertaining to job security, salaries and benefits, working conditions, ending unpaid work, and so forth. The University of Ottawa has blatantly refused to discuss most of these issues with the union during direct bargaining, making it impossible to reach an agreement on any of our important issues. Part-time professors are committed to bargaining, and have asked the help of a government-appointed conciliator to help the parties reach a settlement. Even in the face of a labour disruption, the APTPUO will continue to bargain in good faith.
- Are part-time professors threatening to strike over pay?
No. Other issues are at the core of the bargaining, including access to resources, workload, and the capacity to offer an education of high quality. These issues are crucial since our members teach around 60% of the undergraduate classes at the University.
- If part-time professors get more money, will uOttawa raise tuition to cover costs?
There is no correlation between rising tuition costs and the cost of labour. Steadily climbing tuition fees are the universities’ answer to reduced government funding of post-secondary education and the exponential rise in highly paid administrators. Labour costs are a small portion of the University’s expenses, while tuition, ancillary and administrative fees represent a growing portion of its revenues to cover the lack of funding from governments. Rather than demanding proper public funding from the federal and provincial governments, administrators of post-secondary institutions increase their own salaries while they put the burden of the financing of their activities on the back of the students.
If you would like to learn more about the ongoing trend of rising tuition fees across Canada, check out this 2018 article on Global News.