Eight hundred administrative, technical, and library staff at Carleton University, members of CUPE Local 2424, began strike action on March 5 to defend their defined benefit pension plans. The union points out that despite administration's claims to the contrary, they are demanding the deletion of key language that protects members from changes to pension provisions that may be decided without the agreement of the union. The university has attempted to paint the union as requesting "special treatment" in the pension plan based on its refusal to accept the university's changes to the language pertaining to its bargaining unit within the larger plan for all university employees. However, the union has responded pointing out that, in fact, the protections from changes to their defined benefit pension plan they are defending is a benefit for everyone under the Plan and furthermore that having different language for different groups in a joint pension plan happens at other institutions.
The university has been spreading disinformation about the union's demands, presenting them as an effort to take control of the pension plan. In response, the union has explained why it is adamantly defending the pension plan from arbitrary changes:
"Over the past 15 years, Carleton has implemented a series of very serious cuts to the benefit levels in the pension plan, including the elimination of an early retirement bridge, an increase to the penalty for retiring early, and -- most dramatically -- removing the protection in the plan against post-retirement benefit reduction [the "non-reduction guarantee," which no other Ontario university with a hybrid plan has removed].
"But it gets worse. In 2010, the University decided to start requiring plan members to pay a major share of the employer's pension contribution obligation -- worth about 2 per cent of payroll. This change actually violated the CUPE 2424 collective agreement and a grievance was filed in 2010. The resolution of that grievance in 2015 was only a temporary measure -- a Letter of Understanding that expired in 2017 with our collective agreement. The Employer then brought a proposal into collective bargaining to remove the contract language that protects our pension contribution rate from further changes without the Union's consent. This is clearly a concession -- this language protecting our contribution rates has been in our collective agreement for more than 40 years and the Employer has given no good reason for removing it. As we did in resolving the grievance, the Union has again offered to accept a continuation of the 2011 rate increase until its expiry in 2021 -- but the Employer has rejected this, and insisted that our members should no longer have this protection in our contract."
CUPE 3911 extends its full support to the striking workers at Carleton and calls on everyone to help block the university's underhanded attempts to divide the various collectives of workers at the university for purposes of imposing its anti-social restructuring of their pension plan.
(Reprinted from Workers Forum, March 8, 2018.)
Update, March 19: Striking Carleton Staff “Frustrated” by Failed Negotiations: Union
Support workers at Carleton University will continue to strike after talks broke down this past Sunday, CBC reports. “The university and the union met for 14 hours on Sunday, March 18, with the assistance of a mediator. However, they were unable to reach an agreement at this time,” read a university statement. The pension plan remains the sticking point for workers, according to CUPE representatives. “They're not asking to put anything extra into their agreement; they just want to uphold the rights they already have,” stated CUPE national representative Jacynthe Barbeau.