The bargaining unit representing University of Ottawa support staff has voted down a so-called final offer from the university by 80 per cent.

The unit, which is part of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, is objecting to proposed cuts to certain benefits in the offer, including cuts to the current retirement allowance and parental leave top-ups, as well as a reduction in reimbursement for medication from 100 per cent to 80 per cent. The unit also said the latest offer didn’t make adequate progress on addressing concerns over heavy workloads for its members and numerous vacant positions.

Marcelle Desmornes, president of the bargaining unit, says her team is very happy with the results of the vote, adding she was shocked the university proposed a reduction to drug coverage during a pandemic. She also noted the coronavirus crisis made reaching out to the unit’s approximately 1,300 members more difficult. “It has been a big challenge for us to mobilize, because there’s no general assembly, there’s no meeting in person. All of it had to be done virtually.”

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With regard to retirement benefits, during the initial stages of bargaining the university expressed a desire to remove the current lump-sum allowance it pays to plan members upon retirement, she says. However, it has since conceded to keep the allowance but suggested it be cut for new hires after ratification of the latest version of the contract. “As a union, we find that’s not fair. You’d have two types of members.”

The vote’s result means the bargaining unit and the university will need to go back to the bargaining table, said Patrick Charette, director of institutional communications at the University of Ottawa, in an email to Benefits Canada, noting the university has since thanked workers for participating in the voting process.

“We respect their decision to reject the final offer the university presented to their union back in April. The university will continue to respect the bargaining process and will work with the union to discuss best way forward.”

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