Negotiations to begin in 2019
Negotiation History (2015)
NOVEMBER 10, 2015
The mediation session that was held November 10, 2015 with Arbitrator Stan Lanyon has ended with not enough movement by the parties to reach any kind of breakthrough. Arbitration hearings are scheduled to begin on November 19th. There will be five days of hearings after which the arbitrator’s decision will be rendered at some future date in the new year.
The UNBC-FA Negotiating Team is currently hard at work considering the developments from the November 10th mediation and is preparing arguments for the upcoming arbitration. Updates will be provided when available.
Faculty Association Brief:
UNBC-Faculty Association Brief
Faculty Association Brief (Background):
UNBC-Faculty Association Brief (Background)
UNBC-Faculty Association Rebuttal:
UNBC-Faculty Association Rebuttal
UNBC Administration Brief (Background part 2):
UNBC Administration Brief (Background part 2)
UNBC Administration Reply:
UNBC Administration Reply
Arbitrator’s Award December 2015:
(Click to Download)
– Strike FAQs Provided During Job Action Students
The fundamental difference of opinion concerns whether UNBC can continue to flourish if working conditions are substantially worse than at other comparable universities in Canada. An inability to attract and retain strong research faculty to UNBC would have a very negative impact on UNBC students. In particular, it would diminish our ability to include undergraduate students in research in the classroom and beyond. Specific issues include reduced job security for faculty, the worst salary structure of any comparable institution, and negligible post-retirement benefits, among others.
Each side recognizes that we are ultimately interested in what is best for UNBC, and that everyone will have to continue to work together after a new contract has been negotiated. Each side endeavours to recognize that the other is working for what they think is right, in the best way they know how, and that the current impasse reflects a professional difference of opinion rather than being a reflection of personal differences.
The Faculty Association has been engaged in negotiations since May 2014, after failed negotiations in the previous round (an arbitrator had to be called in). Given that we had an agreement that functioned well for the last 20 years, there is no reason that this contract should take particularly long to negotiate. Nevertheless, after little progress had been made, the Faculty Association invited a mediator to help move things forward in November. At this point, progress has again stalled and we are waiting for a resumption of talks.
Unfortunately, job action that does not affect anyone has no impact. If there were a way to convince the Employer of the seriousness with which we take our priorities without disrupting university function, we would certainly do so.
Some of these issues, like refunds for tuition, are wholly in the Employer’s control, and these questions should be directed to UNBC’s Administration. Others, like extending the semester, will be negotiated in a back-to-work agreement. The answers to these questions will depend in part on how long the strike lasts.
UNBC faculty care deeply about our students. UNBC faculty believe that the best way to help current and future students is to build a university that attracts and retains top-quality scholars, allowing the best education possible for our students and maintaining and strengthening our excellent reputation in Canada. We cannot do this in a work environment that is demonstrably worse than our comparator schools.
It depends. Some research may be allowed under the terms negotiated at the start of job action. Also, anyone may cross a picket line during a strike unless the Administration declares a lockout (in which case nobody is allowed in). You should discuss this with your supervisor.
During the 72 hours prior to the start of job action, the parties negotiate “essential services,” that is those things that are deemed essential. In general, anything not declared an essential service would be impacted, which would probably include most deliveries. You should discuss this with your supervisor.
City buses are still running to UNBC, but are dropping off riders in front of the picket line.
You can encourage NUGSS to take actions (letter-writing campaigns, petitions, etc) encouraging UNBC to reach an agreement with the Faculty Association. You can write letters to the Citizen explaining a strike’s impact on you and your plans. You can tell your family and friends to speak out on social media in support of UNBC faculty. And you are welcome to join us on the picket line.
No. There are other equally small (or smaller) universities in Canada and other countries. Smaller universities are often stronger, given the better learning environment they can provide with small class sizes and abundant research opportunities. Given UNBC’s #2 ranking in MacLean’s magazine, it appears that the small size is not holding it back in any way.
British Columbia has had a challenging work environment for public sector employees in recent years. This is why the three non-unionized research universities in the province (UNBC, SFU, and UVic) all unionized in the past year. It may be the case, therefore, that BC universities are more likely to strike than other ones, but last year there were strikes or near-strikes at Brandon, Windsor, and UNB, for example.
No. Many excellent small universities in Canada have very good working conditions. Indeed, UNBC has some of the worst working conditions in the country, which has led to our efforts to improve these conditions.
That depends on the approach that UNBC’s administration takes in future rounds of negotiations, but, in general, everybody hates a strike, and having been through one makes both sides more eager to reach agreement without resorting to one.
That is a personal decision, but the current labour unrest is unlikely to recur (for the reasons given above), and hopefully the temporary inconvenience of a strike will be outweighed by the quality of UNBC’s education.
University strikes in Canada are rare, and recurring strikes (i.e. more than one strike within a few years) are almost unheard of. One way or another, the most contentious issues are resolved in the aftermath of a strike.
It could in the short term. It is unquestionably the case that a strike is a huge inconvenience for everyone. Faculty go without pay. Students may lose time and money in completing their degrees. The benefits of building a solid foundation for UNBC’s future, however, clearly outweigh the inconvenience to all of us (faculty and students). UNBC’s strengths, as reflected in our #2 MacLean’s ranking, and the unlikelihood of recurring job action in the short term, suggest that the impact on enrolment would be limited. This is certainly the experience of other universities that have had strikes.
More information relating to contract negotiations and job action can be found on the home page of this web site, or follow us on Twitter (@UNBCFA).
QUESTION OF THE DAY
There are two components to supporting job action. The first is withdrawal of all services, which is expected of all Members. The second component is working for the union to support job action by picketing or performing alternate duties. Any Member, regardless of rank or employment category, is eligible to work for the UNBC-FA for 20 hours per week and to draw strike pay for doing so. The union recognizes that Members with full-time jobs outside UNBC may be unable to perform the work of strike support, but expects all Members to withdraw their services.
Online teaching, like all teaching, should end when strike action begins. Members are expected to withdraw all services, including online communications with students.
Members will not be able to enter campus to park in the UNBC parking lots. Parking will be available behind the strike headquarters in the Bon Voyage Plaza. Members will report to the headquarters and will be transported to campus for their picket shifts via shuttle bus.
Department Chairs are Members of the Union and are not considered management. They are expected to withdraw all services, including the administrative duties they perform as Chairs.
All UNBC-FA Members are expected to withdraw from the supervision of practica. The UNBC-FA cannot rule on the feasibility of permitting students to continue practica partially or wholly supervised by non-members; nor can the UNBC-FA accept any risk or responsibility for the continuation of such practica. We recommend that Members in professional programs (and others who oversee practica) consult within their programs and with the UNBC administration to consider the ethical, practical, and risk-based issues involved.
Sabbaticants are expected to perform only those duties related to their scholarly activity. The performance of any tasks related to teaching and service is considered strikebreaking activity and should be scrupulously avoided. Such tasks include, but are not limited to, teaching classes, advising students, supervising practica and graduate student research, and any service duties. Any questions regarding the performance of specific duties should be directed to the UNBC-FA Strike Adjudication Committee.
Students are allowed to continue paid research work during a faculty strike, so long as they can do the work independently (and safely) without supervision. Faculty may not engage in any of their normal work activities during a strike, including supervising research students (whether they are working for pay or academic credit).
The administration has assured us that student assistants and TAs will continue to be paid in the event of job action.
The Faculty Association is very conscious of the need for students to successfully complete practicum hours. We will do everything we can to ensure that program-specific practicum requirements are addressed in the “back to work protocols” that will be developed with the employer once the strike is settled. Disciplines and faculty members involved in practicum courses and placements are already investigating and discussing the potential mechanisms/arrangements for successful completion of practica.
Bankers and lenders are normally quite considerate when their clients are participating in job action, and will often allow reduced or deferred payments. We have a form letter at strike HQ if a lending institution asks for evidence that a member is on strike. Please note that special consideration would usually need to be requested before the pay date.
Seriously? No, we have proposed a re-mapping on a go-forward basis. UNBC faculty have been subsidizing University finances through their low salaries to the tune of thousands of dollars per year per person. Nevertheless, we only seek to address UNBC’s broken salary structure for the future.
Yes, your Faculty Association is ensuring that all of your regular benefits (extended health, vision, counselling services, etc) continue for the duration of the strike. To find out more about these benefits, you can look on the Human Resources web site (HR benefits info), or contact HR. If you still have questions, please contact your Faculty Association, and we will do our best to help.
These are stressful times for all involved. Be assured, however, that we will let members know about any events that affect our members and negotiations. Unless you see it in an official email from us or see it on our website, it’s probably just a rumor.
The UNBC salary structure for FA members is broken: every year we work, we fall farther behind the market rate in effect at other institutions. This is made even worse by inflation. This gives our members a strong incentive to look for employment elsewhere, which will ultimately be to the detriment of UNBC. Our proposal – the so-called re-mapping – is to set up a grid system under which each member’s salary would be determined by their years of service in rank. Under this system, some members would see no increase at all. Others would see their salaries raised closer to the market rate. So we are not asking for ANY across-the-board increase, rather an adjustment to the salary structure.
You can help by commenting on the press web sites where these stories show up. In addition, you can help ensure the widest dissemination possible of FA statements by re-tweeting, liking on FaceBook, emailing to your friends, etc. At a more formal level, your Executive is monitoring the media and providing clarification when we see stories that are misleading or incorrect.
As a current sabbaticant you have a couple of options: first, you could notify the administration that you are going on strike. They would then stop paying you, and you could join us on the picket line. Second, you could remain on sabbatical and contribute the difference between your regular pay and your strike pay (or whatever fraction you wish) to the FA to help support our strike efforts. The Executive is grateful to you for considering how to help out!
The transportation logistics will be arranged in consultation with the picket captains, and sign-ins will take place on the picket line. In principle, it should be fine to carpool or otherwise arrive at the picket line.
All Members are expected to register for picket duty. Those who are not close to a campus, or are appointed at a campus at which no picketing is planned, will not be expected to relocate to picket. Such Members will be assigned alternative duties if they wish to participate in the strike.
All Members who wish to participate in job action and draw strike pay are required to register for picket duty. Members who have registered will be assigned shifts and will be contacted in advance of their first shift by the picket captain for that shift.
This issue is currently under discussion with the administration, and we will inform our members as soon as an agreement has been reached. The UNBC FA is proposing that sabbaticants would be completely unaffected by a strike (i.e. they would continue to be paid their normal sabbatical salary, have access to research funds, have access to their office, be reimbursed for research-related expenses, etc.).
The UNBC Faculty Association has been attempting to bring our Agreement into line with sector norms since May of 2012 (see timeline and bargaining bulletins under Faculty Negotiations). When the FA was unable to find common ground with the Employer, an arbitrator was called in, resulting in a 2014 report that clearly endorsed the FA’s positions, but did nothing to address them. At that point, the UNBC faculty members decided to unionize as a way to be able to exert more pressure at the bargaining table. The current round of negotiations, our first as a certified union, began in May 2014. In November 2014, with no substantive progress at the table, the FA requested a mediator from BC’s Labour Relations Board. With the help of the mediator, the two sides reached consensus on most of the non-controversial articles of the Agreement, but remain far apart on the issues that deviate substantially from our comparator institutions. In light of the continuing impasse, and the failure to achieve any improvements to the Agreement in nearly three years of bargaining, the FA’s only recourse is to consider job action.
DAN WEEKS REPORT – THE FA RESPONDS
[President Weeks’ report in black, FA response in blue]
After making considerable progress at the negotiating table
It took nine months of negotiations including 30 days of Labour Board mediation to negotiate an agreement in which most articles were either literally or substantially those of the 2012‒2014 Faculty Agreement. If the administration had not steadfastly denied the possibility of rolling over articles in the “old” agreement for the first six months of negotiations, we would probably not be on strike today.
and following negotiations that continued through the first days of the Faculty Association strike, the Faculty Association bargaining committee chose to walk away from negotiations on Friday (See: http://ckpg.com/unbc-faculty-association-strike-into-day-two).
On Friday morning (March 6th), the Employer’s team came to the table to say that they would not be tabling a response to our last proposal. The FA team suggested that the President and/or Provost come to the table to help make the breakthrough that will get us all back to work. The Employer rejected this suggestion. Soon thereafter the Employer’s team left the table. Thus, when the UNBC FA’s bargaining team left the negotiating table on Friday, we were facing empty chairs on the other side of the room. The Employer’s team had chosen to leave the table. We have heard nothing since. The invitation to President Weeks to come to the table remains open. We are ready to meet at any time that the employer has ideas to discuss with us.
Nevertheless, I am determined to see that the current labour dispute is resolved – locally and at the bargaining table – so that all of us can get back to our regular duties.
In explaining the University position, let me illustrate some key points.
UNBC’s current proposal incorporates minimum annual wage increases of 0 / 1 / 1.5 / 1.5 / 1.5% for all FA members over the five-year agreement, consistent with the provincial government’s Economic Stability Mandate. This mandate has been accepted in agreements for more than 200,000 people, representing two-thirds of the BC public sector.
How many first collective agreements are represented in this total? A union’s first agreement is by far the best time to get it right, as previous rounds of bargaining have demonstrated.
For UNBC, this would be a cumulative increase of 5.5% to faculty salaries, and comes after two fiscal years (2012-13 and 2013-14) when faculty wages increased by 2.5% in each year.
Indeed, and these two fiscal years followed two previous ones in which faculty compensation increased not at all. What’s more, 2012‒2014 increases were awarded by arbitration above the PSEC mandate precisely because UNBC faculty’s salary standing was so low. As Arbitrator Vince Ready said in his decision (Arbitration Award), the UNBC FA presented compelling evidence of UNBC faculty’s “low/bottom standing” in compensation among their comparators‒comparators relied upon by the administration for its own purposes (including advertising and institutional analysis). Because the GWI increased salaries overall, but did not remap salaries, the same problems we identified in the previous round persist. The administration‒rather than resting comfortably on having had a third party award a higher than average GWI on the basis of compelling evidence ‒ should have planned to address the problem in this round rather than digging in.
It is worth nothing that the 5.5% over 5 years being offered by the university pales in comparison with the average of well over 2% per year over the next two years already negotiated at our comparators across the country. Thus, the Employer is insisting that‒as bad as our salaries are now‒they ought to be worse, relative to our comparators, five years from now.
For comparison, during those same two years, UNBC’s CUPE support staff wages increased by 2% in each year, non-management Exempt employee wages increased 2% in each year, and all managers, directors, and senior administrators experienced a wage freeze mandated by the Government of BC.
Labour market analysis rests on comparing like work to like work, as Vince Ready indicated in his analysis. In fact, exempt-group salaries at UNBC are comparable to those at other institutions, and senior management are compensated competitively with those at our comparator institutions.
Career Development Enhancement
The University recognizes that our fixed Career Development Increment has led to a growing compensation gap between faculty at UNBC and their counterparts at other universities. The challenge is to find ways to resolve a gap that has emerged over 20 years and as a consequence of previous agreements between faculty and the University. The University’s fiscal realities and responsibilities as a public university with an eye to a sustainable future create additional challenges. For example, the operating grant from the Government of BC, which provides 67% of the operating budget for UNBC, declined this year by $572,000. Moreover, enrolment has declined this year by 5.9%. Additionally, the growth in the number of public universities in BC over the last decade has created an increasingly competitive environment.
The budgetary decline of $572,000 represents a small percentage of the university’s overall revenue (1.15% of provincial grant as per audited financial statements of 2013) and, as the administration admitted in 2014 hearings (UNBC arbitration submission), declining tuition revenues have been “more than offset” by growing international student admissions. In fact, relative to the universities that compensate their faculty much more highly than UNBC does, UNBC has a very comfortable situation.
Even faced with these realities, the University has proposed to repurpose an additional $1.6 million in savings within the current agreement to enhance the range of the Career Development Increment from $0 to $1,111
In fact, that the actual current range of CDIs at UNBC is $0 to $2222, as members receive two CDIs during the first three years following promotion. For comparison, average CDI among our comparator universities is about $2700.
to $0 to $3,700, with an average of $2,000 by 2018.
The $1.6 million “repurposed” (reallocated) was explained at the bargaining table as being $320,000 per year that was being reallocated from market differential salary payments into merit award salary payments. The rest of the so-called increased CDI (actually a merit award) is really just a reallocation of the existing $1111/$2222 CDI per member into merit awards. Effectively, any member being awarded an above-average merit award under the university management’s new proposal is being paid in large part from existing CDI money taken from other members. Evidently, the Employer shows far less concern with fixing our salaries over the next five years than it has shown to the 25th anniversary celebration, the renovation of the cafeteria, or the removal of kitchens from student residences. In effect, the money reallocated from one form of salary to another is a pittance when considered next to the acknowledged gravity of the salary gap and the funds UNBC has at its disposal.
The planned so-called “enhancement” of CDI represents an actual elimination of CDI, since the CDI system would be turned into a total merit system‒something not in effect at any of our comparators or at any unionized university. The proposed merit system is based upon – but even more divisive than – the broken system that led SFU faculty to unionize last year.
This proposal is consistent with both my choice to join UNBC as well as the many messages I have received from the University community who demand that UNBC remain focused on its mission as a regionally responsive research university committed to excellence in teaching, research, and service. Enhanced increments would be based on a review of career development and added to the base salary of faculty.
“A review of career development” is better understood as a “forced ranking” under which all faculty would be evaluated and ranked against one another to render a certain number of increments on a seven-step system, rendering a set average.
This CDI proposal attempts to prevent faculty members from falling further behind those at other universities. Simply put, the CDI rewards career development and reflects a substantial effort to address the compensation gap.
First, we note that this new merit scheme was first introduced at the table two weeks ago and had not been mentioned at all in the previous 9 1/2 months of bargaining, or the previous round. To introduce such a major – and apparently immovable – principle at this late stage of bargaining is, frankly, irresponsible bargaining.
In fact, the administration’s “faux CDI” promises to further distort the salary scale at UNBC, which the administration’s own data show to be not only badly out of step with comparators, but internally broken so that salaries do not even reflect the current agreement, let alone a sustainable labour-market rate for the work being done by faculty at UNBC. It is a certainty that many of our Members will be even worse off under the Employer’s merit increment scheme than they would have been if the old CDI system continued as is. When presented with scenarios in the negotiating room, the Employer’s team admitted that this was true. Astonishingly, the Employer’s team acknowledged at the table that they had not actually attempted to model the effects of their merit scheme. If they had done so, they would have understood how flawed their proposal actually is. Even after being confronted by the flaws in the proposal, the Employer’s team adamantly stated that they would not change it.
We acknowledge that some unionized faculty in Canada do have merit award systems, but these are paid on top of a fair across-the-board CDI system. For example, at Lakehead University, faculty members can apply for merit increments on top of the CDIs of $2700 for each member. No similar proposal was made by UNBC management.
Summary and Next Steps
Financial commitments made to salary in collective bargaining are long-term and extend well beyond the length of a collective agreement. The total compensation package proposed by the University over the five-year agreement adds $4.5 million to FA member compensation and is a solid foundation upon which we can build. In comparison, the compensation proposal from the Faculty Association, costed over the same five-year period, has been estimated by UNBC to have a cumulative cost of more than $20 million, including benefits.
This is a disingenuous costing of a proposal we have not tabled. It is equivalent to the FA saying that the employer has offered 1% over the same two-year period we have proposed. On the employer’s own figures and assumptions, if this were a 2 year deal followed by a 3 year deal, the cumulative costing over the same 5 years would be approximately $9 million. Using the more conventional incremental cost accounting, the employer has costed our proposal at approximately $2.9 million. They have costed their own proposal at $1.9 million using this approach (excluding benefits in both cases). For an example of the difference between these costing methods, please see Bargaining Bulletin 22.
There’s no way I could recommend such an increase within the context of an annual university operating budget of $68 million and risk the financial viability of our university.
The administration consistently and grossly underestimates its revenues and exaggerates its expenses. Every year, the University forecasts a tight budget, yet, according to UNBC’s audited financial statements (e.g. UNBC 2014 Financial Statement), the University has been substantially in surplus for much of the last decade. As Vince Ready pointed out, there is nothing to prevent UNBC from changing its priorities.
The University remains committed to flexibility and creativity in how the funds in the University’s proposal can best be applied in ways that promote and reward excellence and ensure a sustainable future for UNBC. With that in mind, the University remains committed to negotiations and I remain hopeful that the Faculty Association will choose to return to the table.
We reiterate that the Employer’s divisive merit-only proposal is unacceptable and will further distort UNBC’s already broken faculty salary system. There is not a faculty union in the country that would accept the Employer’s offer. President Weeks: get your facts straight. Then roll up your sleeves, pick up the phone, and let’s get to work negotiating a collective agreement like those at our comparator universities: an agreement that will ensure UNBC’s sustainability and continued excellence.