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University finds consensus after year-long negotiation with TAs 

photo by Sofia Hashi

Teaching assistants have reached a deal with the University of Ottawa after two days of negotiations and almost a year without a collective agreement.

The Ministry of Labour appointed a conciliator to facilitate dialogue between the two parties after negotiations stalled this past spring.

In March, the student workers’ union voted in favour of a strike mandate that would have allowed them to strike during exam season.

Instead, they eventually reached an agreement five months later on Aug. 14 that promises increased wages and benefits to student workers.

Union president Isabelle Hétu credited the conciliation process in pushing a deal through.

“We finally solved the questions on how the Employer had handled the Tuition Support Benefit as well as the salary mass. Having the proper numbers in hand gave us the necessary leverage to make our voices heard.”

The university’s Board of Governors voted to raise tuition fees in June for the ninth consecutive year. Teaching and research assistants are required to enrol at the U of O to be considered for the job. Because of this, a portion of their salary will go to paying off tuition.

Tuition increases without salary increases puts student workers at a net loss, the union said.

The two parties agreed to an increase to the tuition support benefit that will help counteract any future hikes in tuition fees.

After that was settled, other monetary issues soon followed, said Hétu. The issues of maternity leave and the financial aid fund were two other contentious topics.

In earlier stages of the bargaining process, the union accused the university of purposefully putting off negotiations by withholding necessary financial data.

Hétu said that in the last two days of negotiations, the university provided that information and “seemed more open to discuss the matters at hand.”

She said she’s “greatly satisfied” with the progress made in the conciliation process.

“I hope this agreement will protect our members for the years to come and act as a cornerstone that can only be improved and adjusted if need be until the next round of bargaining,” she said.

The U of O also released a statement confirming that a tentative deal had been reached, but gave no further comment.

The new agreement will not be put in effect until it is ratified by the Board of Governors and union members in the coming weeks.