Carleton students say strike's impact is minimal, for now

Students at Carleton University say they're worried, but aren't really feeling the effects of a strike yet after support staff walked off the job Monday.

850 support staff walked off the job Monday, causing some classes and labs to be cancelled

Chelsea Emode said she hasn't felt the effects of the strike after the first day, but is concerned about being able to communicate with her program's internship co-ordinator if it continues for an extended time. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Students at Carleton University say they're worried, but aren't really feeling the effects of a strike yet after support staff walked off the job Monday.

Around 850 employees, including admissions, IT, athletics and counselling services workers, are on the picket line for a second day after final attempts at talks with the university broke down early Monday morning.

The main point of contention is around their pensions.

The union said the university wants to cut wording that would protect their defined benefit pensions

"I haven't really been affected too much," said Chelsea Emode, a third-year journalism student.

But she said she's worried about being able to secure an internship since the program co-ordinator is on the picket line.

The point is not to punish students.- Jerrett Clark​,  CUPE  2424 president

"It's less work that I have to do now, so I can focus on other stuff," said Joshua Tardioli, a first-year student whose chemistry labs have been cancelled because of the strike.

"But at the same time, I'm paying $8,000 a year to come here." 

Student athlete Paige Boyle said she's also had her labs cancelled and is unsure about what access she'll have to physiotherapists connected to the university's soccer team since the head of athletic therapy is now focusing on the picket line. 

But her biggest worry is what will happen if the strike drags on.

"I just don't really want to see what happened to the colleges happen here," she said, referencing the strike action by 12,000 professors and instructors across 24 Ontario colleges last fall.

It lasted for five weeks before the Liberal government passed a bill legislating them back to work.

Other students complained about the extra trek they have to make to get on and off campus since OC Transpo bus drivers are dropping passengers off on Bronson Avenue instead of crossing the picket lines.

Some students waited a long time at bus shelters on campus before noticing the signs directing them elsewhere.

OC Transpo stops across Carleton University have notices up saying riders must go off campus to catch a bus because drivers won't cross the picket lines. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Traffic jams caused by pickets were also a source of contention.

"We drive to school and so what should be a 15 minute drive has turned into a 45 minute drive just to get on campus," said Dahlia Hogue, a third-year student caught in delays on Bronson Avenue.

Pressure on university, says union head

"The point is not to punish students. The point is to be visible, to get our information out and to withdraw our services from the university," said CUPE 2424 president Jerrett Clark.

"By withdrawing our services, it's up to the university to ensure that operations continue and in most departments and services that's up to managers. So, that additional strain on resources is ultimately sort of our leverage in this situation."

The union spoke with Carleton's student association and various students about possible disruptions, he said, but hopes they will be short-lived once bargaining continues.

"I'm confident and I'm hopeful that if we can keep talking, if we can keep negotiating, that we can find some middle ground and hopefully resolve this."

CUPE 2424 president Jerrett Clark said the point of the strike is not to punish students, but to put pressure on Carleton University's resources. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)
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