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PSUO-SSUO members protesting on Monday afternoon. Image: Charley Dutil/Fulcrum.
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Cancelled labs and obtention of transcripts seem to be the biggest impacts of the strike on students

Earlier this week, the union representing support and administrative staff at the University of Ottawa (PSUO-SSUO) and its 1,300 members began a strike after a failure to reach a collective agreement with the university concerning health benefits, retirement allowance, parental leave top-ups and reimbursement for members medication. 

The members, who include people such as lab coordinators, mental health counsellors, financial officers and academic advisors, all hold important roles at the U of O. 

Students are feeling the brunt, most notably when it comes to their labs. 

“Two of my classes are taught by lab coordinators so they’re currently not happening,” wrote Sophie Gregoire-Mitha, a fourth-year biomedical student to the Fulcrum in a message on Instagram.

Jillian Prins, a third-year chemical engineering and biochemistry major has felt the impact too, with both her molecular biology lab (BCH 3356) and microbiology class (BIO 3524) being affected by the strike.

“My professor for my microbiology class is also a lab coordinator, so this has affected him and his class as well. He has said that he is committed to continuing to teach, which is greatly appreciated,” wrote Prins in an email. 

Prins lab sessions are cancelled until further notice; she says this is especially concerning given the fact that she is in the Monday session and will go three weeks without a lab session due to the Thanksgiving long weekend, reading week and now the strike. 

“I’m not really sure how they’re going to handle our results reporting since it is the type of lab where things are carried through week to week, basically fragments of one large experiment,” she said. 

Clara Perrier, a second-year biochemistry major, had her lab cancelled for her organic chemistry II class. 

“For now it just means that we don’t have anything to do; no in person labs, no reports, nothing,” wrote Perrier in an email. 

“I’m worried that we’ll have to retake the course in the summer.” 

In addition to cancelled labs, the communication between staff and students has been cut off according to Prins. 

“We no longer have office hours or tutorial sessions … this is concerning to me because our midterm is coming up in early November.”

Perrier voiced a similar concern to Prins over the upcoming exam season in December. 

“I’m worried about what will happen if the PSUO-SSUO and uOttawa aren’t able to agree before our exam period.”

In addition to the halt of the labs, Prins’ professor has allegedly been locked out of his email and the students cannot reach out to him with questions; however, he has resorted to taking questions from the students through the course’s Brightspace page.

Prins was notified by email on the afternoon of Oct. 18 by both her lab coordinator and the university about the possibility of a strike. She then received another email from the vice-dean of the faculty of science Monday morning confirming that the strike was happening.

Perrier was also notified by her lab coordinator several days before the strike occurred, by a Brightspace announcement. Three days later, she received an email from the U of O.

Eden Gladstone Martin, a fourth-year human kinetics student at the University of Ottawa, is worried that the strike could affect his application to graduate schools due to the fact he is currently unable to access his official transcripts. He says he contacted a staffer and was sent an automatic reply stating that the staffer was on strike. 

 “I am hoping for a prompt return,” said Gladstone Martin.

Despite the added inconvenience and stress, both Prins and Perrier fully support the SSUO’s decision to strike. 

“I think the support staff had no choice but to do this strike. I do not blame them for any of this,” said Prins. 

“They literally are the ones taking risk by being on campus to provide us with a complete education,” said Perrier.