A huge thank you to each of you for standing strong during a long and difficult round of bargaining. As you know by now, facing pressure from student organizations and the resolve of faculty, on Thursday evening–just one hour before the strike deadline–the College Employer Council (CEC) agreed to send matters to binding interest arbitration.
As a reminder, the faculty team had offered to go to binding interest arbitration over four months ago. Instead, the CEC, and the College Presidents who direct them, left it till the 11th hour to agree, causing profoundly unnecessary stress on students and faculty alike. This is characteristic of the bullying and disrespectful behaviour we have seen from them for almost one year–union-breaking strategies that are much more common in the private sector.
Further, the CEC has been trying to muddy the waters for months, either by insisting on final offer selection–a type of arbitration almost unheard of in our sector–yet by also stating that they saw the issues as too important and nuanced to be sent to an arbitrator.
What kind of arbitration are we going into?
We are entering into voluntary binding interest arbitration–exactly what we’ve been proposing for months. The structure of the arbitration is set out in the Memorandum of Settlement [MOS], with William Kaplan as the agreed-upon arbitrator. The Bargaining Team believes that Arbitrator Kaplan (who arbitrated our agreement after we were legislated back to work in 2017) is the best neutral choice. We also believe we have a strong position entering arbitration.
It is up to the arbitrator to establish the process. Most importantly – the MOS does not set final offer selection as the method of arbitration, which is what the CEC has been clinging to for months.
Now, the CEC is trying to claim that this is somehow different, because this is “unconditional” arbitration. To be clear, they have been insisting on conditions to enter arbitration for some months. We are very pleased that they have finally agreed to drop their conditions and join us in binding interest arbitration to avert a strike. We are completely unclear, however, why the CEC feels a need to continue the toxic and hostile tone in their communications after an arbitration agreement has been reached.
What happens at binding interest arbitration?
While we are pleased that an agreement to go to arbitration has been reached, arbitration was always a compromise that faculty offered to avert the possibility of a strike. Over the last several days, the CEC has been spending a fair amount of time on social media saying that they intend to put their (twice rejected) concessions forward at arbitration. This is part of the MOS, as is our ability to put forward our original proposals as well. We would note, however, that it is up to Arbitrator Kaplan to determine the process for and shape of what goes forward. Typically an arbitrator’s role is replication: to determine what would likely have been the outcome following negotiations, our votes, and the near-strike. All of this, however, is at the discretion of Arbitrator Kaplan.
In the coming weeks, both sides will be preparing “arbitration briefs” to present to Kaplan and are seeking arbitration dates. This process will likely take some months. In the meantime, we continue to operate under the imposed terms and conditions, until a new collective agreement is awarded.
WTR is now officially over; however, in many ways, work-to-rule will never be over and has opened our eyes to the sheer volume of unpaid overtime work that faculty do–often at great personal cost to our own well-being. Although we are no longer on strike, we can all individually recognize the limits of our contracts and allocated time, and choose to work within it.
It is also important to note that there is no requirement to “make up” work during WTR. With the exception of our grades, which we should now submit as per usual, managers cannot ask you, or schedule you, to do work that you did not complete during WTR. Please contact the Union if you experience pressure to do additional work without recognition on your SWF or through your contract.
Going forward, let’s not lose sight of the tremendous solidarity built over this year. Together, we can celebrate each other and continue the fight for respect, decent working conditions and a quality college system.
In solidarity, JP, Jonathan, Katie, Michelle, Ravi, Rebecca, Shawn