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Your Move, Carleton!: Strong strike votes put ball in senior management’s court.

By: Sam Heaton


Workers and students stage an information picket on Feb. 5  Credit: Sam Heaton

Workers and students stage an information picket on Feb. 5
Credit: Sam Heaton

Students arriving for their classes on Feb. 5 were met with a lively information picket by two campus unions at the Bronson entrance of campus to raise awareness about workers’ bargaining on campus.

The picket was organized by Carleton’s teaching assistants (TAs), contract instructors (CIs), campus safety employees, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) local 4600, and the Ontario Public Service Employee’s Union (OPSEU) local 404, respectively.

While only CUPE 4600 and OPSEU 404 are currently in negotiations with Carleton senior management, they were joined in their picket by professors organized as the Carleton University Academic Staff Association (CUASA), support staff members of CUPE 2424, Hospitality and Service Trades Union local 261 representing Carleton Dining Services workers, members of CUPE 1281 and Unifor.

Student groups such as the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) and the Ontario Public Interest Research Group-Carleton also joined the action.

Since the picket, members of both unions voted overwhelmingly to support taking strike action if necessary. Campus Safety workers voted 97.4 per cent in favour, while Carleton TAs and CIs voted 82.5 and 87.5 per cent in favour respectively.

CUPE 4600 has filed a “No Board” request with the Ministry of Labour, and anticipates a legal strike or lockout position to come into effect at 12:01 AM on Monday, Mar. 10.

This means the ball is now in senior management’s court. The upper echelon of power at Carleton must decide whether to accede to the just demands of workers at Carleton to improve teaching and learning conditions and provide adequate funding to campus safety.

The alternative is for senior management to plunge the campus into a strike no one wants.

Campus safety workers have pointed out that staffing levels have remained virtually unchanged since the 1980s, while Carleton’s community has exploded in size. They are demanding adequate coverage, and an end to compensation far below the provincial average.

Carleton’s CIs say they make 8 per cent less than the provincial average, and are seeking to bring their compensation in line with the norm. They say senior management treats them like outsiders, and are seeking a role in university governance. One goal is to be able to equally access campus health facilities and increase job security beyond their current four month contracts.

Carleton’s TAs say they are fighting to protect their wages from being eaten away by tuition increases.

Safety workers’ overwhelming strike vote shows that Carleton’s infringement of their freedom of expression only backfired. Management had attempted on Jan. 21 to ban the wearing of symbols of support for the union among OPSEU 404 members.
CUPE 4600 members’ demands for respect, a say in campus governance, and to defend their rights have demonstrated that their teaching conditions are students’ learning conditions.

Carleton president Roseann Runte, who earns over $300,000 annually, wrote in a Jun. 2013 editorial for the Globe and Mail that classes should have higher enrolment, and be taught by “less well-paid individuals.”

With senior management’s neoliberal vision for the university looming overhead, the challenge for students is to not allow themselves to be diverted into begrudging the workers and fellow students who TA.

Most students benefit from properly funded public education. Those who make Carleton work –  including CUPE 4600 and OPSEU 404 members –  are at the forefront of defending public education by defending their own conditions.

When Carleton was brought to the brink of a three-union strike in 2010, the Carleton University Students’ Association, the GSA, and the Carleton Academic Student Government stood together as one in support of our campus workers.

Uniting around the defence of public education and in support of TAs, CIs and Campus Safety workers would be an important contribution of students towards avoiding a strike.

By passing motions, keeping each other informed, organizing events and actions, and engaging in discussion amongst themselves, students can apply pressure to the administration to meet the demands of fellow students and workers organized in their unions.

If Carleton senior management is unable to spread confusion as to whose side is standing up for public education, it is less likely that they will be able to force the campus into a strike, or resolve one to the detriment of workers and students.

This article was first published in the Leveller Vol. 6, No. 5 (Feb/Mar 2014).

The CSRC is dead!: The Leveller says fare thee well

By: Ajay Parasram

The CSRC’s Wake.

The CSRC’s Wake.

Friends, Ravens, activists! Lend me your eyes. I come to praise the Critical Social Research Collaborative, not to bury it!

It is with a heavy heart that I must report that as of fall 2013, the infamous Critical Social Research Collaborative (CSRC) has formally disbanded. It was not too long ago, between the harvests of 2008 and 2009, that this ambitious group took shape under the spectre of a Marxist reading group. The founding vanguard included Gulden Ozcan, Aaron Henry, Ryan Katz-Rosene, Priscillia Lefebvre, and Carlo Fanelli. The group was largely affiliated with Carleton’s Institute of Political Economy, which thirstily attracts the intellectual left of this campus like the gravitational pull of a black hole sucking the very photons from its celestial sister.

Built on the conviction that critical social research ought to bring together activists, scholars, and students to be meaningful in the hostile political economic environment of contemporary Ottawa, the CSRC organized the first of five annual conferences in critical social research in 2009. As a pilot project aimed at testing the waters amongst the left-leaning Ottawa audiences, the first conference, entitled “Dialectics in Question: Revisiting ‘Capital’ &/in Crises,” was held at Carleton University. The gathering brought together activists, students, and professors across Carleton, as well as from the headquarters of Marxist academic research, York University.

But nay!

It was not enough to satiate the appetites of the hungry Ottawa masses, starved and deprived as they were, supping upon a cruel diet of Harper-esque platitudes! The people demanded more, and the CSRC grew. What was once a reading group hath now become a veritable organization, hosting seminars and workshops and assisting with critical film festivals across the polis!

Like the magicians of old, the CSRC resurrected the defunct journal, Alternate Routes, adding the subheading “a journal of critical social research.” As a founding CSRC member, Fanelli was made editor of the journal and published the first revived edition in 2011.

The CSRC’s mandate was a simple one: to be a graduate student-led research collective bringing together faculty, trade unionists, and community activists to promote, support, and create a platform for the sharing of critical perspectives and research conducted on the defining social issues of our time.

And oh, how they did!

Hosting seminars on feminist methodology, launching books such as The Ugly Canadian by Yves Engler and The AKP Years in Turkey by Simten Coşar, and allying themselves with the Ontario Public Research Interest Group (OPIRG), the CSRC had become a hub and sanctuary for those swimming against the currents of austerity, colonialism, and intellectual boredom. Scholars and students looked forward to the group’s annual conference, coming from Central and Western Canada, the northeast of the United States, the Middle East, and South Asia. To the delight of the masses, the CSRC’s fourth annual conference was held in 2012, entitled “Fault Lines of Revolution!”

With a membership continually growing, representing an increasing number of undergraduate students, the venerable CSRC became a Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) club – at least until the beginning of the end in 2012. Plagued by technocratic thugs who had commandeered the normally progressive undergraduate union, the CSRC was forced to spend a ridiculous amount of time haggling, fighting, and hoop-jumping to satisfy the ideologically driven new CUSA executive, arguing that, yes, even left-wing student groups deserve the same treatment as the gun club and the anti-abortionists they preferred to support. The CSRC joined with other working groups of OPIRG to defend the organization against the callous attack and attempted defunding of the PIRG, celebrating with the progressive left when undergraduate students voted to continue supporting OPIRG, with over 70 per cent in favour of keeping the progressive hub on campus. That year, the CSRC hosted its fifth and final annual conference, entitled “Eulogies for the Public: Capitalism, Warfare, and the Conservative Turn.”

While many new members have been attracted to the CSRC’s executive board over the years, and some old stalwarts remained active unto the end, its members are plagued by the torrential downpour of doctoral dissertation demands. It is perhaps fitting, then, that as they rounded out half a decade with a “Eulogy for the Public,” we offer this public eulogy in the left-wing space of thy sacred Leveller parchment! As this generation of the CSRC departs and the project lays dormant, cast thee no tear! For the foundations lie waiting for the next generation of graduate students to take up the torch and burn a fire bright enough to be worthy of remembrance!

This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol. 6, No. 3 (Nov/Dec 2013).



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