February 28, 2018

To All Members of the University Community,

I want to begin by saying that members of CUPE 2424 are highly valued and respected members of our community.

On Monday, March 5, members of CUPE 2424 may be going on strike. We respect their right to strike. We also feel we owe it to CUPE 2424 members and the university community to correct misinformation that continues to be circulated by some in our community so all can be fully informed about the facts of this dispute and what is at stake.  In light of some inaccurate information circulating, we don’t want you to say, after the fact: “I didn’t realize that. Why didn’t they just say that?”

Q. Different Carleton unions have different benefits, so why can’t CUPE 2424 have pension language that is different from other collective agreements? 

A. Carleton has one pension plan for all plan members that is administered by a pension committee – the majority of whom are employee representatives. This is very different from health and dental benefits that are negotiated by individual unions on behalf of their members.  If CUPE 2424 wants a veto over pension decisions, this could only work properly if members of CUPE 2424 were in their own separate plan.

Q. Is management trying to change or take away Carleton’s pension plan or the Minimum Guarantee (the Defined Benefit part of the pension plan)?

A. No. Absolutely not. We’re proud of the pension plan, including the Minimum Guarantee. Since 1948, the university – working with the pension committee – has strived to administer the pension plan for the benefit of current and future plan members. That commitment remains.

Q. What is CUPE 2424 demanding and what is management’s interpretation of why CUPE 2424 members are preparing to strike?

A. In management’s view, CUPE 2424 is seeking control over the pension plan by insisting on a veto over pension committee decisions. The union is asking to change governance processes and roles that belong to the pension committee and to the university, represented by the Board of Governors, without assuming the legal responsibility that goes with this.

The pension committee has done an excellent job of administering the pension plan for more than 50 years. The university is protecting the role of the pension committee and governance on behalf of all plan members.

Q. You’ve been saying the pension plan is doing fine. If that’s true, why would you allow a strike to happen when you could just leave the collective agreement the way it is?

A. Following the 2008 financial crisis and strict provincial rules on solvency funding, deficits arose in the pension plan. The pension committee (the majority of whom are employee representatives) researched options on how best to protect the pension benefit for all plan members. At that time, CUPE 2424 filed a grievance to try to stop those recommendations from applying to its members.

In all of the pension plan’s history, CUPE 2424 had never before used the language in the collective agreement to raise an objection to pension decisions, despite the fact there had been more than 20 changes to the plan over previous decades. CUPE’s grievance made it clear that the collective agreement could be used to try to override the pension committee and put the plan at risk in the future.

Although the grievance was resolved, the union knew that the university would insist that CUPE 2424 not have a permanent veto over other employee groups in the pension plan, and that this issue would have to be addressed through bargaining.  As a result, the collective agreement needs to change.

The university and CUPE 2424 will return to the bargaining table on Sunday, March 4.  We remain optimistic that the parties will resolve outstanding matters in advance of the union’s strike deadline.

Sincerely,

Rob Thomas

Assistant Vice-President (Human Resources)