Members of CUPE 2424, the support staff local at Carleton University, celebrated victory on April 3 by a 98% majority vote to ratify a tentative agreement. Their month-long strike secured their defined-pension plan for years to come. The local represents more than 850 administrative, technical, library, counsellors, and nursing staff at the university
The new collective agreement, reached in a marathon bargaining session on Easter Monday (April 2), contains specific language which requires the Board of Governors to get agreement from the union or the Pension Advisory Committee of the University before any significant changes can be made to the University-wide Pension Plan. The union will have the right to grieve any “adverse” change and requires the University Administration to give the union six-months’ notice of any proposed change to the Plan.
In a CUPE National media release released after the ratification, CUPE Researcher Kevin Skerrett, who participated in the negotiations, saluted a pension benefit formula provision in the agreement. “Neither CUPE 2424, nor any other union we know of, has ever had any specific benefit provisions included in their collective agreement. The inclusion of this important detail will make any modifications to that basic formula very difficult.”
The union saluted the solidarity and determination of its members, posting on its Facebook page, “We achieved more than just ‘language’ in a Collective Agreement. We achieved dignity and respect, if not from our employer, then certainly among and within ourselves. We achieved solidarity and strength. We achieved resilience. We achieved courage in the face of adversity. We formed an unbreakable bond sealed with purpose and determination. We turned pensions into something personal, turned our cause into a community.”
The Carleton community, the local and national labour movement and community groups provided solidarity actions throughout the strike. The Labour Council held a solidarity BBQ. Support pickets were organized by the CUPE District Council, Solidarity Ottawa, and the Ottawa Committee for Pension Security. CUPE National President gave the strikers a rousing speech in support at a rally, linking their struggle with his own union’s pending negotiations with Canada Post. He saluted their solidarity and determination.
CUPE 2424 acknowledged and thanked the support they received on its website: “The fight for pension rights resonated with so many people. We received amazing and unparalleled support from every group and association on campus – students, faculty, security workers, maintenance and engineers – from the media, from groups outside Ottawa, and from outside Canada’s borders. This bolstered our determination to defend our pension rights and the agreement that we ratified is evidence that we fought the right fight…. But perhaps most importantly, our strike has put pension rights on the agenda for other unions at Carleton, and beyond. Now, we’re all more aware of how important it is to be vigilant about protecting pensions for ourselves and for those to follow. We will continue to support each other and demonstrate our solidarity with others who take up the fight.”