Contract Faculty Negotiations 2016: FAQ « WLUFA

Contract Faculty Negotiations 2016: FAQ

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Questions & Answers

Table of Contents

Explain to me again, am I in the union or not?

Being a member of the Bargaining Unit is not the same as being a member of the Association! Everyone who has a contract to teach a course (or lab, or tutorial, or music studio, or field supervision, etc.) at Laurier is automatically a member of the Contract Academic Staff Bargaining Unit. That means they pay dues and are protected by the Collective Agreement negotiated by WLUFA and the University Administration. Joining the union (WLUFA)—that is, becoming a member of the union—is different, though. To join WLUFA, a Bargaining Unit member just has to fill out the membership form that can be found on the WLUFA website under “forms” on the “Governance” drop-down menu. There is no cost to join, but there are benefits (see below). If you are not sure whether you are a member or have questions about joining, give Linda in the WLUFA office a call at 519-884-1970 (ext. 2603). She will be more than happy to answer any question you might have.

Why should I become a member of WLUFA?

Becoming a member of WLUFA gives you a say in the running of your union. Only WLUFA members can run for WLUFA Executive or President, and only WLUFA members can sit on WLUFA committees or joint committees with the University. Only WLUFA members can vote in WLUFA elections or attend WLUFA General Meetings. Don’t confuse WLUFA General Meetings with Bargaining Unit meetings, though. Bargaining Unit meetings are open to all members of the Bargaining Unit, whether they are WLUFA members or not. Meetings of the Bargaining Unit are usually held in in conjunction with negotiations. Ideally, WLUFA would like all of the members of both Bargaining Units—part-time and full-time—to be WLUFA members. Currently, using very rough estimates, about 1/4 of contract faculty and about 3/4 of full-time faculty are WLUFA members.

How did the Negotiating Team get picked?

As in previous years, a call went out to all Contract Academic Staff asking them to indicate any interest in a bargaining workshop. The response rate was low, so WLUFA decided to try a different strategy. Individuals who had expressed an interest in bargaining (recently and in the past) were contacted and recommendations from other Bargaining Unit members were sought. The President, the Chief Negotiator and the past Chief Negotiator met with small groups of interested members and held question-and-answer sessions. The members of the Negotiating Team were determined on the basis of these informal meetings. The team is diverse, with its members representing different campuses, faculties, genders and lengths of service.

How will I know what is happening with contract negotiations over the summer?

There will be regular bargaining bulletins sent out as negotiations proceed. These will be sent as email attachments, and they will be available on the WLUFA website as well. There will also be blast surveys that will ask you to answer a quick question or two from the Negotiating Team about an issue that is at the table.

What is WLUFA’s response to the Caucus for a Democratic Union?

WLUFA supports the right of every individual and group to express their opinions. Unfortunately, much of the opinion expressed in emails sent to members by the Caucus organizers has been uninformed and/or misleading. WLUFA has responded to only the most egregious of these. You can find WLUFA’s direct responses to claims made by the Caucus in two letters from the Executive sent to Members on January 26 and February 29.

What are the key issues for the 2016 round of negotiations?

While it is standard practice to limit information about negotiations while the teams are at the table, it won’t surprise anyone to know that job security was the number one priority of our members, as determined from the members’ survey. The second most important issue our members identified was compensation, and benefits came in at number three. For more information, see our summary of the survey results. As always, your negotiating team has crafted their bargaining proposals around the results of this survey. In Bargaining Unit meetings held in Brantford and Waterloo on April 5-6, members voted to approve the team’s proposals.

How reasonable is it to expect WLUFA or any union to win conversions of Contract Academic Staff to full-time faculty positions?

There are very few collective agreements that provide even the possibility of conversion to tenure-track positions for contract faculty. York University does have some language to this effect, but it is almost unique in the country and even at York a full-time tenure-track position is not automatic, even after many years of service. Having said that, your negotiating team will be presenting proposals during this round of bargaining that could, if successful, guarantee the possibility of more secure employment with a defined teaching load.

Who is your Negotiating Team?

The following are all CAS members:

  • Jim Gerlach – Chemistry and Biochemistry, Chief Negotiator
  • Anne-Marie Allison – Mathematics
  • Laurie Manwell – Psychology
  • Sheila McKee-Protopapas – Biology, WLUFA Executive Director
  • Houman Mortazavi – Economics
  • Carl Simpson – Philosophy and Communication Studies

What’s the timeline for Negotiations 2016?

Our Collective Agreement expires on August 31, 2016. The plan is to sit down at the table with the Administration starting in May and continue through the summer. If a deal is not in place by the end of the summer, negotiations will continue into the fall. At that point the situation will be assessed, and a determination will be made regarding potential job action.

Why is there no contract faculty representation on the search committee for President?

The make-up of the search committees is set out in the Full-time Faculty and Librarian Collective Agreement. In order to change that, there has to be agreement from both the University and the WLUFA Executive. This has been a topic of discussion at the Negotiation Team meetings, and a proposal to address this situation has been formulated and has received unanimous agreement from the Executive Committee. Other changes to collegial governance structures at the University (for example, Senate and Board of Governors membership) require a far more complex process that would involve amendments to the Wilfrid Laurier University Act (an Act of Parliament). This is something that cannot be negotiated at any bargaining table.

How many contract faculty are on the WLUFA Executive?

The newly elected WLUFA Executive includes four contract faculty out of a total of 11 members. They include the President, a contract faculty member who has been acclaimed to a second term, and three of the nine elected Executive members (the past president is the 11th member).

What’s “Conciliation”?

(From email sent to contract faculty on November 8, 2016.)

As you may have heard, the Administration filed for conciliation [Monday, November 7, 2016] in the hope that a provincially-appointed conciliator will help to bring the Parties to agreement at the negotiating table. Conciliation is a normal part of negotiations and faculty at WLU have never completed bargaining without taking this measure. At this point, both Parties are hopeful that conciliation will be all that is needed in order to bring negotiations to a satisfactory conclusion.

Conciliation can be filed for by either Party during negotiations. Occasionally, both Parties decide to file jointly. The Parties can request a conciliator they would prefer to use. The Province appoints a conciliator (ideally the preferred one) and depending on their schedule of availability, the conciliator meets with the bargaining teams. The Provincially-appointed conciliator will meet with the Parties a number of times and then file a report with the Ministry of Labour. That report can indicate either that a tentative agreement has been reached or that more meetings are necessary, or it can suggest that there is no use in appointing a Conciliation Board because the Parties are too far apart on the issues (i.e., the “no board” report).

For more information, see the Ontario Ministry of Labour’s Conciliation: FAQ page.

(From email sent to contract faculty on December 13, 2016.)

Either an employer or a union may ask for third-party assistance, including conciliation. Conciliation is the process by which a facilitator appointed by the Ontario Ministry of Labour (OMofL) acts as a broker between the opposing parties in order to facilitate communication and reach a settlement. The process is non-binding, but at least one meeting with a conciliator is required by provincial law before a strike or a lock-out can occur. If conciliation fails, the parties must wait seventeen calendar days after a “no-board” is issued before engaging legally in a strike or a lock-out.

In WLUFA’s situation, the Administration was the party that filed for conciliation. Both Parties, however, agreed upon the preferred conciliator. The first meeting is scheduled for Dec. 14th 2016 (http://www.wlufa.ca/2016/11/25/a-conciliator-has-been-appointed/).

What is a “No-Board” Report?

(From email sent to contract faculty on December 13, 2016.)

It is not the function of the conciliator to make judgments on the merits and positions of each side; he or she may make suggestions to either or both sides, but these suggestions are not binding. If conciliation leads to agreement on a proposed contract, the proposed agreement would be submitted to the CF bargaining unit membership and to the Laurier Board of Governors for ratification. After one session with a conciliator, either side can call for a no-board, though negotiations can (and usually do) still continue. If the conciliator feels he or she cannot affect an agreement or if either side calls for a no-board, the OMofL will issue a letter stating that a Conciliation Board will not be appointed (the so-called “no-board” report). After a period of seventeen calendar days following this no-board report, a strike or lock-out is legally possible. A no-board report does not mean a strike (or lock-out) will occur; the decision to strike or lock-out can be kept in abeyance until any point in time.

What happens if a “no board” report is filed?

(From email sent to contract faculty on November 8, 2016.)

Once a “no board” report is filed, the clock starts ticking towards a possible lock-out or strike. In Ontario, a 17-day period must be observed before any kind of job action is taken by either the union or the employer. Even if a “no board” report is filed, however, the Parties can continue to meet and try to negotiate a settlement, often with the assistance of a mediator. Mediation is not mandated by law and both sides have to agree to the process. A mediator is also a trained neutral third party appointed by the government or hired by both Parties to attempt to assist the Parties to reach a tentative agreement. Often the same person acts as both conciliator and mediator, although this is not always the case. The pressure during mediation is greater than it is in conciliation, with the mediator pushing both Parties hard to reach a settlement.

If mediation fails (with or without job action taking place) the last possible step to reach an agreement is arbitration. This involves the appointment of an arbitrator who will examine the proposals from both sides and impose an agreement. Arbitration is a quasi-judicial system that both sides have to agree to undertake. While arbitration can be helpful in some cases, it is typically seen as a radical last step and, historically, has not been utilized at WLU during faculty negotiations.

What is a strike vote?

(From email sent to contract faculty on December 13, 2016.)

A strike vote is a vote taken among employees in a unionized workplace to authorize a strike. Frequently, this vote is taken well in advance of the last stages of negotiations. Our majority strike vote gives the WLUFA Executive the authority to call a strike if and when it concludes that such a step is necessary in order to reach an acceptable Agreement. The stronger the vote, the less likely a strike may be, as it alerts the Administration to the collective strength and resolve of our members. In fact, a strong YES vote is the best way to secure a fair and equitable collective agreement without the need for a strike.

CF voted 94.9% in favour of a strike mandate – the strongest CF strike mandate vote at Laurier ever: (http://www.wlufa.ca/2016/11/03/contract-faculty-vote-results-95-in-favour-of-exec-calling-a-strike-if-necessary/).

Does a strike mandate lead to a strike?

(From email sent to contract faculty on December 13, 2016.)

In most cases, NO. Often a strike mandate is sufficient to get the Administration to take the union seriously in negotiations. There is a process designated by the Labour Relations Act that must occur before WLUFA could or would take a strike position OR the employer could or would lock out its employees. The process is as follows:

  1. After regular negotiations seem to have come to an impasse, one or both of the negotiating parties may apply for conciliation. (This step has already occurred.)
  2. A conciliator is appointed by the Ministry of Labour and conciliation dates are agreed to. (This step has already occurred: Greg Long has been appointed and conciliation dates have been set for Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, 6.)
  3. There is at least one conciliation meeting in the attempt to reach an agreement. (See above.)
  4. Conciliation either brings about an agreement OR it fails to do so.
  5. If no agreement is reached, the conciliator issues a no-board report.
  6. A seventeen calendar day waiting period ensues before any strike or lock-out can occur. Negotiations can – and frequently do – continue during this period with the help of a Ministry-appointed mediator. The mediator is frequently, but not always, the same person that undertook the role of conciliator.

After all of these steps, WLUFA can call a strike if and when there seemed to be no other way to reach an agreement. Similarly, after the waiting period, the Administration can lock-out CF. A strike or lock-out does not happen overnight, however, as you can see; there is advanced warning and significant planning involved.

What is a Strike?

(From email sent to contract faculty on December 13, 2016.)

Legal strike action is the right of unionized workers to withdraw services or refuse to work (or continue working) with the aim of demonstrating the collective concerns and resolve of the bargaining unit. A strike is not an end in itself, but rather a means to obtaining a fair and equitable collective agreement. Legal strike action does not happen overnight and it is not a decision that is taken lightly.

What is a lock-out?

(From email sent to contract faculty on December 13, 2016.)

A lock-out occurs when the employer denies access to the workplace in order to exert pressure on the union and its members to settle on the employer’s terms.

Do I need to be worried about a possible strike or lock-out?

(From email sent to contract faculty on December 13, 2016.)

At this stage, it is unclear. However, whenever negotiations must enter into conciliation in order to come to an agreement, the possibility of either a strike or lock-out does increase. Because of this, you should become familiar with the vocabulary and practice of legal strike action. It is also important to learn about the issues at stake. For the latest NT news go to http://www.wlufa.ca/wlufa-home/contract-academic-staff/contract-faculty-negotiations-2016-news/.

Should we discuss the possibility of a strike in our classes?

(From email sent to contract faculty on December 13, 2016.)

As the possibility of job action increases, it is inevitable that your students will have questions. Answer your students’ questions thoughtfully as they come up but try to avoid using your classroom as a political platform. Frequently, you will be expected to answer students’ questions about how the course would be handled in the event of a strike. But discussion beyond the logistics of your courses could result in sanctions against you, or the Union, by the Administration. WLUFA is in contact with the student union leadership and they will communicate about the strike with their members. Should we proceed with an actual strike (or in the unlikely event of a lockout) any back to work protocol that would be negotiated on reaching a settlement would include provisions for making up class time. An academic term has never been lost due to a strike in Canadian history.

Are there other things I should be doing right now?

(From email sent to contract faculty on December 13, 2016.)

Yes. We ask every member to provide WLUFA with his/her alternative (non-Laurier) email so, in the event that access to our Laurier email is restricted, we can continue to communication important information. It is also useful to begin thinking now about what you might need to remove from your office or lab prior to a strike deadline.

 

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If you have any other questions you would like answered and/or added here, please contact the WLUFA office.

Created on: Friday, April 15th, 2016

Last updated on: Tuesday, December 13th, 2016