What to expect during collective bargaining - Vol. 7, No. 2

In anticipation of faculty bargaining beginning on June 6, the following is a collective bargaining primer for UWOFA members.

The process

During negotiations, UWOFA’s and the employer’s negotiating teams will hold a series of meetings to exchange proposals and respond to each other’s positions. Each side also meets separately throughout the process to discuss and redraft their respective proposals. This can be a time-consuming process. While it plays out, both sides generally do not comment publicly on the positions on the table because it could discourage them from putting frank and open positions forward for discussion. So, while we are all curious about what is going on, our negotiating team can usually only give us the broad strokes of what is happening – for example, which articles have been signed off and which have yet to be negotiated. In addition, members will be informed of crucial matters that are affecting the progress of negotiations. UWOFA will publish more detailed negotiating reports when possible in future Bargaining Bulletins.

While the two sides do not have to meet with any particular frequency or structure, the Ontario Labour Relations Act does require that they negotiate in good faith and make every reasonable effort to reach a collective agreement. Though it rarely occurs, both parties can agree to refer some or all issues to arbitration at any time. After the current agreement expires on June 30, either party can declare that negotiations are at an impasse and apply to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to have an appointed conciliation officer meet with both parties and help them reach an agreement. If this is unsuccessful, the Minister of Labour can state that a conciliation board will not be appointed, and after 17 days following such a “no-board report” either a strike or a lockout can legally take place, though this is far from inevitable.

A vote of the faculty bargaining unit will be held before a new collective agreement is ratified. The decision to call such a vote is made by the Association.

What can change and what remains the same during negotiations?

According to the Ontario Labour Relations Act, the employer may not alter wages or any other employment condition while collective bargaining is going on unless UWOFA has given consent. It would not be appropriate, for example, if an employer imposed a general pay cut during negotiations or changed any other employment provisions. 

Everything essentially stays the same. But it is worth noting that procedures currently in place for changing individual faculty members’ employment remain in effect during negotiations. We can still obtain tenure and promotion, make new appointments, or get an administrative stipend for being appointed as a Chair.

If UWOFA considered that a proposed change to someone’s employment violated the “freeze” during negotiations, the issue could be decided by the Labour Board if it could not be resolved with the employer. Examples of previous board rulings, involving other unions, where employers violated “freeze” conditions include:

  • Restructuring work to abolish positions
  • Introducing procedures to monitor employees
  • Revoking privileges previously enjoyed
  • Unilaterally changing work hours
  • Changing the method of payment or the calculation/accrual of vacation entitlement
     

If you face any of these situations, UWOFA is here to help. Contact the Association at 519-661-3016.

Your negotiating committee, led by chief negotiator Jeff Tennant (French Studies), is bargaining for an equitable new collective agreement with improved working conditions.