UPDATE (Feb 28th): Conciliator appointed for March 7th
The bargaining team has been at the table with the employer for a total of 13 dates since our contract expired in September of 2013. After making good progress on a number of issues that were important to both sides, we reached an impasse on February 13th. (Hmm, a lot of 13s in there—auspicious!) As a result, we filed for conciliation—a process in which a government-appointed mediator (conciliator) attempts to assist the parties in resolving areas of disagreement.
Following is a summary of concessions demanded by the employer, followed by the Union's position.
Benefits: Employer proposals to reduce the size of the Health Benefits Fund and the Professional Development Fund, to eliminate current surpluses, and to prevent any future surplus from rolling over for use in subsequent years.
Travel reimbursement: Employer proposal to eliminate travel reimbursement for all members.
Health and Safety: Employer proposal to add new language that increases responsibilities of members for reporting and preventing incidents.
Wages/Financial: Employer proposals that tie all increases in wages to concessions in other areas, for a ‘net-freeze’ Collective Agreement.
Cancellation Stipend: Employer proposals to reduce the value of the cancellation stipend, except when cancellations occur immediately prior to the commencement of a course.
Hiring Query: Employer proposal to eliminate the Union’s right to file a query to verify that the best-qualified applicant was hired.
Trent’s budget documents show that compensation costs (wages, benefits, pensions) for Instructional Staff as a whole are expected to increase by 11.8% over the next 3 years. During that time, TUFA (full-time faculty) members are expected to gain across-the-board wage increases as per their parity formula, in addition to step increases of approximately 3% per year for the majority of members. Employees covered by the OPSEU Collective Agreement (support staff) will earn across-the-board increases of 7.35% over the current agreement’s three-year term, in addition to step increases for employees who have not reached the top of their pay scale.
Our members have told us clearly that they believe it is fundamentally unfair for the University to seek to meet the costs of these and other increases by insisting on concessions and a net freeze for our bargaining unit only (a net freeze means that if we want to increase, say, wages, we can only do that by giving up a benefit that has an equal value). CUPE3908 members are already precariously employed, earn hourly wages that are considerably less than those of our full-time faculty colleagues, and receive benefits with a total value of approximately 1% of salary (compare with typical cost in the public sector of 20%+).
We recognize that uncertainty around the funding model and failure to meet enrolment targets create financial constraints. We are willing to work with the employer in achieving some specific objectives and limiting the overall increase to costs. However, our low labour cost and flexibility already provide significant savings to the University. We shouldn’t be asked to subsidize the University by accepting an agreement that will see us fall further behind the provincial average—the course instructor rate at Trent is already among the lowest in the province. With the Bank of Canada announcing a target inflation rate of 2% for upcoming years, we run the risk of seeing already-low wages become even lower in real dollars.
We have two days of bargaining scheduled for next week: Feb 24th and 25th. We have requested that a conciliation officer attend at these dates, but may not receive confirmation from the Ministry of Labour until the end of reading break (21st). We believe an agreement that meets the University's needs without leaving CUPE members behind is within reach. Whether or not a conciliator attends, we plan to work hard to resolve outstanding issues during these sessions.
Unit 1 members will receive an email from us soon with details regarding a strike vote. Taking a strike vote during the conciliation process is an important opportunity for members to let the employer know that we are serious about our demands. Having a strong strike mandate is very important in achieving the best deal possible.
We'll be holding a members meeting to discuss this Wednesday, February 26th, at 7pm in the Champlain College Council Chamber. More details will follow, including instructions for remote access so that members who aren't on campus can be present via teleconference/web conference.
For more information: you can always reach us at email@example.com (‘b’ for bargaining, of course).