Carleton support staff strike puts student’s research on hold

Striking support staffers hold union flags while a car passes by on the picket line at Carleton University's main entrance near Bronson Avenue.

Striking support staffers on the picket line at Carleton University’s main entrance near Bronson Avenue. Jordan Gray, a bachelor student of global and international studies, says he can’t carry on his research because library staff he relies on for advice are on strike. (Devyn Barrie photo)

As a support staff strike reaches its second week, Carleton University student Jordan Gray is getting anxious about whether he’ll be able to finish his research project in time for publication this November.

The bachelor of global and international studies student says his research on Mi’kmaq forms of government is on hold because key services at the university library have been shuttered or cut back due to the strike.

CUPE 2424, which represents 850 administrative, clerical and library staff at Carleton University, went on strike March 5 after a breakdown in talks with university officials over the employee pension plan. While librarians are in a different union and remain on the job, Gray, who says he supports the union, says the support staff who are on strike provide many of the resources he needs

“Limited service means the people I need for advice are not there when I need them,” he says. Most useful to his work are the archives, which currently only have one staffer on duty during the strike.

Margaret McLeod, a subject specialist in Carleton’s library who is part of the strike, says support staff like her provide expert advice to students who need help on research projects – services that can’t be provided only by the librarians.

“Because we have our specialties we do things that are specific to our subject areas,” McLeod says. “My particular subject area is history, Greek and Roman studies and philosophy.”

In addition tos a help desk, she says workers in her department may also build websites and order books in their subject areas. If a student doesn’t know where to look, subject specialists are the people they look to.

“When somebody comes in and they don’t know what the heck they’re doing at all, I just spend 10 minutes and we find a whole bunch of stuff,” she says. “And they see that there’s hope.”

Chris Trainer, head of archives and research at Carleton’s MacOdrum library, says he is the only staffer in the archives office during the strike and is unable to give students detailed help with their projects until it is resolved.

“I’ve been able to do sort of the basics, but I am also relatively new to the department,” he says. “My other staff would be a lot more knowledgeable in other subject areas… they really have the inherent knowledge.

“I really can’t wait for my team to get back.”

Gray says he is concerned that if the strike drags on, he will not be able to meet the publication deadline for the Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies. As well, it may affect the courses he selects for next year because academic advisers are also included in the strike.

“These staff are really the nuts and bolts of Carleton and we’re really starting to feel it, especially at the end of the year.”

As a show of support, Gray says he will join the picket line with a group of students on Monday if negotiations do not re-start over the weekend.



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