Professors and librarians at Carleton University gave their faculty union steering committee an unprecedented mandate to call a strike - now set for Oct. 20. In a heavy turnout, more than 94 per cent of academic staff voted to authorize a strike.
"This is about respect," said Carleton University Academic Staff Association president Thomas Kunz. "If the administration has respect for faculty, they need to acknowledge the sacrifices we have made over the past decade when the university had financial difficulties. Now that the university is in good financial shape, they have an obligation to restore our pay to proper levels."
Kunz said the university's recently released audited statement for 2002-2003 shows a surplus of more than $21 million. "This is after surpluses of more than $5 million for each of the preceding four years," he notes.
"We can't help but be suspicious when year after year, management tells us they can't afford to give us a decent scale increase, and year after year, they end up with millions of dollars that go for other things," said CUASA chief negotiator Sonya Lipsett-Rivera.
She pointed to expenditures like the $8 million cost overruns on the new computer system and the construction of new offices for the president, while Carleton faculty salaries are the lowest of all the comprehensive universities in Ontario.
The two sides are divided by the administration's proposal to shift more compensation to merit pay - which the university claims is necessary to attract and keep staff and build commitment to Carleton.
"There is a much simpler way to be competitive and attract the 'best candidates' and that is to have higher salaries for all of our faculty," said academic staff association member Timothy Pychyl, in commenting on the administration's proposal.
"Merit benefits only a few, and there is no way to ensure that those who are deserving of 'merit' will actually receive this under the proposed scheme.
"In the end, there will be a reinforced commitment to the university when the university recognizes our collective efforts towards the university's success by negotiating a contract that benefits the entire faculty."
On Oct. 9, CAUT Defence Fund trustees voted to authorize strike pay for CUASA members and to provide a $1 million loan.