The USFA Executive is concerned about the current state of labour relations on campus. We are working hard to improve these relations and we call upon USFA members to help with this effort.
The USFA shares a common interest with the other unions on campus in negotiating fair compensation, job security, and safe working conditions for workers on campus. We are facing our own challenges at the grievance table and in collective bargaining. We are one of three unions, in total representing about a third of approximately 5000 employees, whose members have been without a contract for between 13 and 37 months.
We have all heard about the possibility of job action by CUPE 1975, which represents service and support staff. It is truly unfortunate that the majority of CUPE members believe that the only way that a fair settlement can be achieved is through job action.
CUPE 1975 has had considerable setbacks regarding its major issue, its pension plan. The Employer filed a grievance stating that it believes it had the right to make unilateral changes to the Non Academic Pension Plan. Despite the past practice of the Employer and the union negotiating changes to the pension plan, the arbitrator decided against the union. According to CUPE 1975, during the arbitration process, the Employer’s messaging was that they would work with the union to find a satisfactory resolution, whatever the outcome. This changed after the decision.
There are good reasons to support CUPE 1975 – their employer is our employer, and positions at one bargaining table are often echoed at other tables. Fortunately, there are many ways you can assist CUPE at this time.
First, talk to your CUPE 1975 colleagues. Let them know they are a valued part of our University.
Talk to your Dean. Express your appreciation for the valuable work done by CUPE employees, and your concern that job action will be debilitating for faculty members, for students, and for all other employees on campus. Let them know that you believe that it is right for the representatives of a bargaining group to have a say about their pension plan.
Talk to your students. Tell them about the importance of CUPE members’ work to our ability to execute our research, teaching, and service work; and the ability of students to learn in a clean and comfortable environment.
Pay attention to what CUPE is saying. The leadership of CUPE 1975 has not yet given specific directions about what they want to see from others in case of job action. Watch their website. We will also keep you informed.
You have a right to refuse to cross a picket line. During the last CUPE strike, the Employer threatened to take away benefits from USFA employees who honoured the picket lines even though the Collective Agreement clearly says that those employees are subject only to loss of pay.
The question of whether loss of pay also includes benefits is a complex matter and will be the subject of subsequent newsletters. There are many unknowns as CUPE goes down this path, and we will be providing you with advice in future newsletters.