Bargaining 2012 Update: Highlights of Roundtables

By Michael Conlon

As part of the consultation process for the upcoming round of collective bargaining, a series of roundtables were conducted at UBC’s Point Grey and Okanagan campuses and at VGH. The roundtables were well attended and provided the opportunity for a robust exchange of ideas among members.

Despite a wide variation of work locations and experiences, several core themes emerged from the dialogue: job security, compensation, professional development funding, and hours of work.

In the area of job security members expressed a growing concern about the use of Article 9 to terminate employees without cause. Since a decisive arbitration decision in 2008, which confirmed the University’s almost unfettered right to terminate without cause, there has been a marked increase in terminations without cause. In some cases these dismissals are the product of financial exigency but a substantial number are as a result of “fit” or “suitability”. It is this latter class of termination that generated the most discussion among the membership. There was a fairly strong consensus that this option should only be employed in the most extreme situation where the employment relationship has completely broken down. A significant number of members spoke of both the fear and vulnerability generated by the use of Article 9 as well as an absence of any clear process for when Article 9 is invoked.

In the area of compensation there was understandable frustration about the prospect of another 0 and 0 mandate. Four years without a wage increase would constitute a real compensation loss of close to 10%. Though there was substantial discussion about the degree to which PSEC circumscribes the bargaining process in BC, there was also some optimism that the recent throne speech opened the door to allowing institutions to consider wage increases in line with their budgetary capacity. At this juncture there has been no word from PSEC about what the actual mandate for this round will be. However, the government has been consistent that no new money would be forthcoming to fund wage increases and that any increases would have to be internally funded.

In the area of professional development there was unanimity that the current model of $750 on a first come first serve basis was inadequate. Members voiced frustration at how quickly the fund runs out and the fact that activities undertaken in the latter half of the fiscal year are unlikely to be funded. While we have been in discussions with the University to find a more equitable way of distributing the funds, it was quite clear that the current investment of $450,000 is not sufficient to meet member demand for professional development.

Finally, in the area of hours of work there was substantial discussion about the inconsistent application of Article 10. Many members reported good working relationships with their managers in which time off was adequately recognized through flex time or honoraria for excessive hours worked. However, other members reported feeling that the University was not sufficiently recognizing the extra hours they work. Article 10 is quite clear that members are not expected to work excessive hours without some form of compensation, either in the form of time off in lieu or via honoraria. It was also noted that, from time to time, management and professional staff are called upon to work more than the mandated 35 hour work week. While the Article itself is quite clear, the feedback from the member was equally clear that Article 10 should be applied equitably and transparently.

Now that the bargaining roundtables are complete we will begin to research and writing bargaining proposal in preparation for bargaining this spring. The bargaining committee will begin to meet in earnest by late March to work through the final package of materials to be presented in bargaining.

We welcome your input through the process and will keep you apprised of developments via the bargaining section of our website.