Though it was tabled only moments before Ontario’s Legislative Assembly adjourned for a lengthy five-month break – and though it will likely not be passed until well into November, 2019 – Bill 124 is already having an impact on our negotiating of a new Agreement for our Contract Faculty bargaining unit.
The Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, 2019 was submitted late in the day on June 5, just a day after bargaining teams for WLUFA and the University Administration exchanged proposals and only days before the teams were scheduled to begin negotiations. Because the tabled legislation includes a strict 1% cap on overall compensation, as well as language that makes the legislation, once passed, retroactive to June 5, the WLUFA negotiating team has found itself in the frustrating position of needing to revise the proposals it has been working on for the past six months.
Original – and optimistic – plans to have a “focused bargaining” approach work as well for CF negotiations as it did for the last Full-time round of bargaining may be in jeopardy, thanks to the Bill. The focused approach to bargaining means that very few major issues are brought to the negotiating table in the hope that discussions remain pointed and productive. This means that the major concerns of the CF bargaining unit — job security, improved compensation, and access to improved benefits — occupied the lion’s share of WLUFA’s bargaining proposal.
With anything that has a monetary value now off the table, job security remains as the only major issue that Bill 124 allows us to negotiate in this round of bargaining. Historically, however, Laurier’s Administration has been averse to negotiating improvements in Contract Faculty job security and have usually found more money to throw on the table at last minute in order to avoid the inclusion of language that would improve the employment conditions of the most precarious workers on our campuses.
Bill 124, of course, makes that strategy a non-option for the Administration. And while we’re certain that the 1% cap on overall compensation has made the Administration’s number-crunchers quite happy, we also know that it’s left their own negotiating team with fewer options at the table.
The Parties have agreed to maintain the proposed bargaining schedule and will meet at the table beginning on Monday, June 17. In the meantime, the WLUFA team has been hard at work attempting to modify its bargaining proposals in light of Bill 124.
This round of negotiations is coming down almost completely to the issue of job security alone. WLUFA is ready to fight for it. We’ll soon see if the Administration is ready to reach a fair deal.
For more information on Bill 124, see a legal summary and opinion here: Goldblatt Partners Summary
Toronto Star National Affairs columnist, Thomas Walkom, offers a thoughtful piece on Bill 124’s place in the public’s perception of its provincial government here : Doug Ford is testing Ontario’s tolerance for chaos
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