By Sarah Newman
The University of Ottawa has reached a tentative deal with its part-time instructors, just barely avoiding a strike.
The walkout was expected to begin Tuesday, Oct. 31, but the deal was struck on Oct. 30.
Strike negotiations went right to the wire after four full days of tense talks between the university and the school’s Association of Part-Time Professors. According to the Fulcrum, the school’s student newspaper, part-time contract instructors had already begun moving into their strike headquarters on Metcalfe Street.
The union had familiar complaints. Part-time professors, which union spokesperson Shawn Philip Hunsdale has said make up more than half of uOttawa’s teachers, took issue with low pay, job insecurity, and poor benefits plans.
The University of Ottawa’s contract instructors earn $7,800 for each course they teach. Professors have what is considered a full course-load at four courses a year, which can mean a pre-tax salary of just $31,000 a year. According to the Ottawa Citizen, the university initially offered a 1.5-per-cent pay increase, while the professors asked for six per cent — a three-per-cent raise plus a three-per-cent inflation catch-up.
The details of the University of Ottawa’s new contract agreement have not yet been made public.
Thanks to the last-minute negotiations, University of Ottawa students just narrowly avoided having to deal with the same academic complications facing students at Ontario’s 24 public colleges.
In Ottawa, Algonquin College and La Cité Collégiale students are currently in their third week of cancelled classes, as both full-time professors and contract instructors are on strike. Many students are worrying not only about having to repeat courses, but also about having to foot the bill for them.
Nearly 120,000 students have already signed a Change.org petition asking Ontario’s colleges to refund students for every hour of lost learning time. The petitioners are asking the schools to refund full-time students $30 for every day the strike drags on.
Last year, Carleton University had an even closer call with a strike than the University of Ottawa did this year. But after a single hour of picketing, the university reached a deal with CUPE 4600, the union representing contract instructors and teaching assistants. The deal was brokered at 6:15 a.m. on the strike day, in a mad dash to avoid disrupting the week’s first 8:30 a.m. classes and the commuter rush.