Bargaining Update – November 19

Team calls for strike vote to protect members from effects of CEC-requested “no board” report

As you may know, the CEC team walked away from negotiations yesterday without responding to our offer for voluntary binding arbitration, and has asked the conciliator for a “no board” report.  

It is simply false that the faculty team presented a “take it or leave it” offer. The faculty team offered to refer outstanding issues to binding arbitration, which would see a neutral party issue a binding decision on which proposals make their way into our next Collective Agreement.  It is a good faith attempt to avoid additional stress on faculty and students, and to (once again) avoid further escalation.  Unfortunately, the CEC has chosen to reject this path forward. 

It is also false for the CEC to assert that both mediation and conciliation failed.  Mediation did not fail: it concluded, and bargaining continued.  Conciliation did not fail: the CEC team walked away while the conciliator prepares the report they requested.

At every stage of negotiations, the faculty team has attempted to avoid labour disruption–by compromising, by incorporating the CEC team’s concerns and ideas with our own, and through creative problem-solving such as voluntary binding arbitration.  

The CEC team, by contrast, appears to be employing the same playbook as they have in the past several rounds of bargaining: deny faculty issues exist, delay implementation of changes, and bargain toward impasse.

The CEC team’s decision yesterday to ask the Conciliator for a “no board” report leaves us in a vulnerable position. This report removes the last remaining step before the employer is legally able to lock out faculty (which they say they’d never do) or to unilaterally impose terms and conditions of employment 16 days after the “no board” report is received.  

The imposition of terms and conditions is a very real threat, and one that the CEC exercised in 2009.  Imposition is a nuclear option: the Employer can literally dictate whatever they’d like to have as their preferred working conditions for faculty.  This can include changing compensation, workload, academic freedom, two-tiering conditions (including different conditions for different programs), or the right to file grievances.  These are all areas the CEC team has targeted in language they’ve tabled this round.

A successful strike vote is faculty’s only recourse in the face of imposition–our right to resist imposed terms and conditions is limited without it.  A strike vote allows faculty to engage in any of a wide variety of coordinated labour actions, up to and including a strike.  Recently, we have seen other Unions, particularly in the education sector, adopt a variety of creative labour disruptions to demonstrate the value of their work and the importance of their demands: These include work-to-rule actions (i.e., following the strict letter of the Collective Agreement), refusals to perform overtime, strikes targeting specific work tasks, and/or rolling strikes targeting different workplaces.

Above all, however, the strike vote is a vote for our solidarity as a bargaining unit: It forces management to negotiate our proposals seriously rather than walking away from negotiations and unilaterally imposing working conditions.  It states that we as a Union will stand up and stand together in the face of the Employer’s escalation and aggression.

The other option open to the CEC is a forced offer vote.  If they believe that their current offer is one acceptable to faculty, they can present that offer directly to faculty for a vote.  As we have outlined, however, the Employer’s current offer contains several concessions, including a moratorium for several years on Union Locals’ ability to gain new full-time faculty positions through grieving; language that would threaten the job security of counsellors; and increased limits on which partial load faculty are eligible to exercise seniority rights through the partial load registry.  

By refusing both voluntary binding arbitration and by not exercising their option to call a forced offer vote, the CEC team has made it clear that they know their current offer is not a good one for faculty.  To obscure this, they’re trying to distract CAAT-A members by painting the faculty team as the ones who are unreasonable and unwilling to compromise.  

In response, we encourage you to reach out to your College Presidents, who direct the CEC, to tell the CEC team to come back to the table, finish negotiations on issues where the teams are close, and to agree to refer outstanding issues to voluntary binding arbitration.  As we move into the end of the semester, the faculty team has left that option on the table–it is up to the CEC now to demonstrate their stated commitment to labour stability and improved labour relations, rather than forcing their agenda on faculty and students.

In solidarity,
JP, Jonathan, Katie, Michelle, Ravi, Rebecca, Shawn