Reading Time: 2 minutes

Union has been in negotiations with University of Ottawa since June 2012

THE UNION REPRESENTING support staff at the University of Ottawa will hold a strike mandate vote Sept. 16 and 17 following collective agreement negotiations with the university since June 2012.

Despite the impending strike vote, Patrick Charette, director of corporate communications for the U of O, said the university would like to resume negotiations.

Support Staff University of Ottawa (SSUO) represents office and clerical workers, technicians, custodians, student services personnel, and more.

“We invited to them resume negotiations at the earliest time possible,” he said. “This is a critical time in the year for everybody — all staff, students, professors — and we want to focus on the return of students.”

SSUO chief negotiator Andre Filion said the union executive is unable to comment until after the strike vote.

An agreement was expected at the end of August when SSUO met with the U of O through a conciliator on Aug. 26 and 27.

At the meeting, the university offered an average yearly salary increase of 2.25 per cent, a limited employee pension contribution increase of 0.8 per cent in the last two years of the four-year offer (to begin on Jan. 1, 2015), new coverage for vision care, and improved coverage for psychological services.

SSUO was unable to agree to the university’s offer and pointed to the tentative deal between the university and the Association of Professors of the University of Ottawa in August.

“We strongly felt concluding an agreement within the days scheduled was achievable,” reads a statement on the union’s website. “Unfortunately, the employer tabled positions that we could not agree to on behalf of our members.”

In a statement on its website, the U of O called the offer “fair and reasonable” and said it “remains confident that a negotiated agreement can be reached between the parties through collective bargaining.”

According to SSUO, the university “unexpectedly” requested conciliation on May 17 and requested a no-board report “without warning” on July 19. The request, which indicates failed mediation, was subsequently repealed.

“The employer’s refusal to communicate clearly and uphold its commitments are ultimately responsible for the current impasse,” the SSUO statement read.

The union said the university is currently in a position to file another no-board report “at any moment.” If the report is filed, terms of employment are frozen but negotiations may continue. This would also begin a countdown to a legal lockout or strike if an agreement is not reached. Charette, however, said there is little risk of this happening.

“We see no reason to request a no-board from the Ministry of Labour, nor do we see the need to trigger a labour disruption,” he said. “Our primary focus is to get a deal. We believe, and are confident, that via bargaining and negotiation, we can come to a settlement that is reasonable.”