Open Letter #1 to Interim President Summerlee
Dear Interim President Summerlee,
There was great enthusiasm when the Carleton community heard claims that your leadership would mark a change in how things are done at the University. You spoke at length of openness and transparency, as well as creating community and improving the reputation we all share. These were prominent themes in your first address to faculty and staff after your arrival in August, 2017.
The handling of labour negotiations with CUPE 2424 is one of the first major tests of your administration’s ability to demonstrate what change could look like. It is with great disappointment that we see no change in the University’s approach to labour relations. Sadly, we are enduring the second strike within a year, and the fourth strike within the past ten academic years.
Official communications from the University, and specifically the March 1st Message from [the interim] President to the Carleton community, are attempts to deliberately disseminate false information and to sow division, both of which epitomize long-standing tactics used by senior administration to weaken the Carleton community.
We will not watch idly while the University makes audacious claims, such as:
- Carleton University has “a truly independently governed pension plan committee.”
- CUPE 2424 is seeking “a veto over the pensions of all employee groups.”
- The attempt to remove pension protection language “is not asking for a concession.”
In fact, any and all final decisions regarding pensions are determined by the Board of Governors. The pension committee is far from independent when nothing stands in the way of the Board of Governors unilaterally changing pensions. The only protection CUPE 2424 members presently have is language in their Collective Agreement.
Further, CUPE 2424 is seeking to maintain its current language, which does not provide a veto over any other group. The suggestion that CUPE 2424 is threatening the pensions of other employee groups can only be seen as an attempt to pit employee groups against each other. This is not leadership.
Removing pension protection language in the Collective Agreement would clearly be a major concession for CUPE 2424 members. It is deceptive to suggest this is not a concession, and insulting to assume the Carleton community would believe it.
The current deadlock over pensions is especially disconcerting given that Carleton has huge pension reserve funds. As demonstrated in the University’s audited financial statements, Carleton has also had massive annual surpluses
- 2011-2012: Over $46 million surplus
- 2012-2013: Over $51 million surplus
- 2013-2014: Over $69 million surplus
- 2014-2015: Over $72 million surplus
- 2015-2016: Over $77 million surplus
- 2016-2017: Over $100 million surplus
Carleton has the means to ensure that all employee groups of the University have secure pensions. We implore your administration to take steps to resolve the impasse by agreeing to measures that would provide CUPE 2424 with the pension assurance its members require. The University has repeatedly stated that it has no plans to change or remove pensions. If this is true, the University should have no problem committing to this in writing.