OCUFA Report: May 11, 2011

Secret award to Ontario government worker undermines faculty bargaining

While the government of Ontario was demanding that the province’s unionized public sector workers – including university faculty – accept a wage freeze for two years, it secretly negotiated a wage increase for its own employees, whose union is the province’s largest public-sector union.

The award gives 38,000 members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) a total increase of
three per cent in 2012. The arrangement was only made public at a labour board hearing last week. The arrangement is being sharply criticized by many for undermining the integrity of collective bargaining.

This charge is especially pertinent to faculty bargaining, where “pattern” bargaining — a strategy whereby faculty associations track each others’ collective bargaining gains closely — has been the tradition for decades. The government’s wage policy has significantly compromised faculty negotiators’ ability to adhere to this strategy.

In recent rounds of bargaining, university employers wielded – and continue to wield — the government’s zero-wage-increase policy at faculty bargaining tables, thus undermining, at one and the same time, the
independence of faculty bargaining from outside meddling and the process of pattern bargaining, which has
worked well in the university sector.

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