Paige Booth, acting president of the SFUO. Photo: Amy Yee.
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The union is set to dissolve soon after the end of the winter semester

“We were disappointed by the results, but ultimately the students spoke. We are going to work with the UOSU as best we can moving forward,” said Paige Booth, acting president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) in an interview with the Fulcrum.

Phasing out the SFUO has proven to be a complicated process, due in part to the SFUO’s commitments to third-party institutions including the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), OC Transpo’s U-Pass Program, and the GreenShield Healthcare Plan.

The University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) has committed to signing new health plan agreements and continuing the U-Pass program. However, the SFUO will need to continue to administer these plans until their contract runs out on Aug. 31.

The UOSU also committed to staying out of the CFS, to prevent the national association from interfering with their founding. However, this leaves the future of Local 41—the national designation for the U of O at the CFS—in question.

Booth stated that the SFUO could not remain in the CFS as they would not have the revenue to pay membership dues. The change-over of student unions is unprecedented in the history of the CFS, and it is unclear whether the organization will take any action to keep Local 41 operating in some capacity.

The SFUO’s role in this transition period was first laid out in their interim agreement with the University of Ottawa’s administration—they were to continue to run all services normally until they could be transferred over to the incoming UOSU. However, recent reports of mass layoffs at the SFUO have cast doubt on the union’s plans.

“We wanted to keep our staff informed of all potential things that could happen, what our status is,” said Booth. “We offered to merge. They said no … so we are telling staff that these are steps that we might need to take, but we told people they would get sufficient notice.”

At least three SFUO staff members had their positions terminated with less than three days notice, an anonymous source told the Fulcrum. The SFUO’s Cafe Alt has also experienced widespread layoffs.

Booth explained that the SFUO planned a merger of the two organizations as a method of transferring services. She claimed the UOSU rejected this plan, forcing the SFUO to prepare for layoffs. However, the UOSU claimed they received minimal communication from the SFUO since the referendum.

“We reached out to legal counsel to draft a plan on how that (transition) would be done. Then we reached out to the (UOSU) because we wanted to give them everything they needed to succeed to fulfill their mandate to students,” she said.

The SFUO has continued to run services and events on campus despite staff shortages. However, many events have been cut back, including several events related to Black History Month.

The SFUO’s interim agreement will run out on April 30, along with the current executive’s mandate. However, no plans for the union’s final dissolution have been decided.