Faculty strike possible: QUFA in negotiations with University
QUFA President Paul Young said if negotiations between Queen’s faculty union and the University fail, “the result would be disastrous.” (Asad Chishti)
“QUFA invites comments and corrections to this article.”
A union of faculty, librarians and archivists at Queen’s could strike if an agreement with the administration isn’t reached by June 30.
Since its contract expired at the end of April, Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA) has been negotiating with the University. According to a bargaining alert issued on the QUFA website, the union is preparing for the worst. Currently Queen’s is in the process of negotiating faculty pensions.
A monetary package presented by the University includes proposals for pension and compensation changes. QUFA officials said such changes will increase the cost and reduce the value of future pensions.
QUFA President Paul Young said the University’s current financial plan isn’t sound.
“We [QUFA] recognize that changes have to be made,” Young said. “The disagreement is about precisely who should pay, and how we split the costs.”
Young said negotiations could continue for any length of time until a party declares them ineffective. The June 30 deadline is a signal to Queen’s that QUFA believes negotiating should be over by that time, he said.
While QUFA has always reached an agreement with the University, Young said, if negotiations fail, the results would be disastrous. “Obviously for a university, lockouts and strikes are catastrophic and it’s not what anybody wants,” he said.
Associate Vice-Principal of Human Resources Al Orth said during the negotiation process, either party involved may apply to file a No Board Report. This is done when the conciliation officer, a neutral third party, informs the Ministry of Labour that an agreement cannot be reached.
At this point, legally there are 17 days to resolve an issue before the employer is able to lock out union members and the union members are allowed to strike, Orth said.
“It’s the party’s decision whether they will go through with this,” Orth said.
Associate Vice-Principal of Faculty Relations Dan Bradshaw said the June 30 deadline QUFA set is ambiguous to the administration.
“The deadline doesn’t mean a strike deadline,” Bradshaw said, adding that the process would be illegal if they did strike.
Several other unions at Queen’s are currently in negotiations with the administration or have plans to begin negotiations. Bradshaw said that the majority of employees at the university are represented by a union.
Three branches of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, representing trade, custodian, food and parking workers at Queen’s are currently negotiating with the administration. The Queen’s branch of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents graduate teaching assistants and teaching fellows, recently concluded collective agreements in April.
According to a media release on the Ontario Nurses Association website, they have received a new three-year collective agreement which includes benefit, premium, health and vacation benefits, as well as health and safety enforcement and lump sum payment plans. This agreement ends March 31, 2014.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union, representing the health workers with Queen’s Family Health, and two branches of the United Steelworkers union still need to set dates for negotiations.
—With files from Katherine Fernandez-Blance