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The PSUO-SSUO is the union that represents all support staff at the University of Ottawa.Photo: PSUO-SSUO/Facebook

Negotiations have broken down after U of O offered “unfair” final offer according to PSUO-SSUO union VP

“Everything is negotiable. Whether or not the negotiation is easy is another thing,” once said late Star Wars actress, Carrie Fisher.

That’s exactly the situation currently at hand between the University of Ottawa and the union representing its support staff the PSUO-SSUO. For several months now, negotiations have been taking place between the PSUO-SSUO and the U of O to address certain employee issues, until the university abruptly decided to stop bargaining and impose a final offer upon the union. 

Over the last 14 months, the University of Ottawa and the members of the PSUO-SSUO have been negotiating to agree on critical employee issues that affect support staff and students. Such issues include unfulfilled vacancies, hiring more academic advisors and mental health workers, etc… Although both parties have agreed on many points, they have up to now failed to reach an agreement on a number of crucial issues. 

“For several months now, the Union has been trying to get the University to address critical employee issues that directly impact the student learning experience such as unfilled vacancies, the hiring of more academic advisors and mental health counsellors, but all have been ignored,” wrote Johnatan Degan the vice president of the SSUO in an email to the Fulcrum.

Patrick Charette the director of institutional communications at the U of O, on behalf of the university, explained that the proposal they have offered to the PSUO-SSUO is aligned with provincial legislation, Bill 124, that restricts compensation increases and cuts employment benefits and compensations by one per cent per year for a three-year period for both unionized and non-unionized employees. 

The bill does not require universities to cut health benefits to employee groups. 

“The University has respected the bargaining process and we have tabled a comprehensive offer that we believe is reasonable and beneficial to PSUO-SSUO members,” Charette wrote in an email to the Fulcrum. 

The final offer vote was submitted to the union earlier in April, the voting period will start on June 22 and end on June 26 at noon, the University is pushing for a quick end to the crisis. 

“We believe this avenue will give members of the PSUO-SSUO an opportunity to review our offer as presented to the union, make their own informed decision, and express it through a vote fairly conducted by the Ontario Labour Relations Board,” stated Charette about the U of O’s offer to PSUO-SSUO members.

“Now during a global pandemic, they are forcing a vote on an offer unchanged in nearly a year which was essentially rejected by an 84 per cent strike mandate last October,“ wrote Degan about the U of O’s offer. “The union just wants to get back to the bargaining table to address employees’ concerns and to negotiate a fair deal.”

“We think that it is time to proceed with a new collective agreement and end the uncertainty that we are all dealing with. We encourage all members to vote,” commented Charette.

If the members of the union vote yes, the negotiations are over, and they settle for a deal the union doesn’t see as fair to them or the students. If they vote no, the negotiations continue if the university allows it to. The union is hoping that by voting no on the U of O’s final offer, they can put more pressure on the University to change its positions. 

The Union is facing mounting pressure to end the negotiations and to agree to the final offer, however, they don’t believe that the final offer is fair to their members. They do not want to settle down and demand a “fair” offer from the University of Ottawa so that both parties are content. They believe that they can negotiate to get the best possible deal for their members claiming that the final offer is “certainly not the best deal for us” and that they will continue working until the deal is achieved.