Who came up with all these proposals anyway?
In the spring of 2019, members of CUPE 4600 Unit 1 and Unit 2 (TAs and Contract Instructors) decided on priorities for the current round of collective bargaining. These priorities took shape through the bargaining survey, steward council meetings and membership meetings, as well as direct feedback from members. The proposals were adopted at general meetings of each Unit.
I don’t mind asking for “A”, but I don’t think we should be too bothered about “B”!
The priorities for bargaining are constantly being re-evaluated and revisited. We can’t add proposals once bargaining begins, but we can decide collectively what is more important and what is less important. CUPE has a policy of not bargaining concessions but we are only as strong as our membership. We need to show the employer that we will not accept rollbacks on issues we have already won. To have your say, come out to the General Meetings and Bargaining Unit Meetings we will hold regularly during bargaining.
What is it?
Conciliation is a process in the Ontario Labour Relations Act where either party can apply for the Minister of Labour to appoint a Conciliation Officer, usually when there is an impasse in negotiations. Most often it is the Union that applies, but not always.
If the Conciliation Officers is unable to bring the parties to a settlement, either party can apply for what is called a No Board Report, i.e. a recommendation that the Minister of Labour not appoint a Conciliation Board because the parties are too far apart. In 99.9% of the time the Officer makes such a report. Seventeen days after that, the collective agreement that is being renegotiated legally expires, and the Employer can lock out the members of the Union or the Union can strike, provided it has sought and received a strike mandate from the membership.
There is yet another step in the bargaining process before a strike or lockout occurs. The Minister of Labour appoints a Mediation Officer, who once again tries to get a settlement. While she/he has no power to impose a settlement, the threat of a work stoppage can force the parties to think seriously and try to get a settlement.
What is a strike vote?
The union calls a strike vote when the collective bargaining process reaches a point at which the University administration is unwilling to meet the demands of the membership. A successful strike vote authorizes the union’s executive committee to call a strike if further negotiations do not produce an agreement acceptable to our members.
What this means is that your elected bargaining committee will take this mandate back to the bargaining table and ask the university administration for a better contract. If the employer refuses to budge it is at that point that job action, including but not necessarily limited to a strike, could begin.
Is a strike inevitable?
No. While a majority strike vote will authorize the union executive to call for a strike if the bargaining process breaks down, it does not necessarily mean that a strike is inevitable. In fact, the stronger the strike vote, the less likely it is that we will have to strike, because it signals to the employer that we are united in our resolve to obtain the best possible contract.
While a strike vote may sound alarming, it is not at all unusual. We have used it in previous rounds of bargaining, giving the bargaining team more leverage to make significant gains at the table. These gains in turn were translated into stronger contracts and better benefits to our members.
Although we have had strike votes in several rounds of previous bargaining, our local has yet to strike. Over 95% of all contract negotiations in Ontario are resolved without recourse to a strike. However, most unions find a strike vote necessary to convince employers to offer a fair deal.
What does a “YES” vote mean?
A “yes” vote gives our bargaining team strong support to negotiate for a better contract. It shows the employer that we are prepared, if necessary, to defend our bargaining proposals. In most cases a strike vote is enough to make the employer move significantly, and a “yes” vote is all we need to attain a fair contract.
What percentage vote do we need for a strike mandate?
Technically speaking, 50% plus one. But such a low mandate, or a “no” vote, shows the employer that union members are not willing to take collective action in order secure their demands and a better contract. Voting “no” considerably reduces the leverage of the Union’s Bargaining Committee at the table and damages our chance of negotiating a good contract.
Do the union’s executive and bargaining teams like strikes?
NO. Strikes are a last resort. But a strike vote is often necessary in order to get progress at the negotiating table. Unfortunately, Carleton administration has traditionally only given us improvements with a successful strike vote, and always wants us to make concessions on key protections that already exist. Tuition fee protection, priority appointments and incumbency rights, for example, were all won only after successful strikes votes.
In every case in CUPE 4600’s history, successful strike votes ended up winning a better contract without leading to actual strikes.
Our bargaining team and your elected executive council and stewards work as hard as they can to avoid going down the strike road. But, if the administration refuses to budge, they will leave us no choice.
GOING ON STRIKE
Who calls a strike?
YOU do! After much deliberation and careful consideration, the bargaining team (TAs and contract instructors elected by you) may decide to ask for a strike vote. Every opportunity will be made so that each union member will have a chance to cast a ballot. If a majority of members vote in favour, this authorizes the bargaining team to call a strike. This does not necessarily mean that a strike will happen. It means that the bargaining team can return to negotiations with more leverage and the ability to call a strike if the employer still refuses to budge.
Once a strike date is set, the strike will begin and run until there is a deal. Every time there is a significant change in the Administration’s position at the bargaining table, there will be a meeting to decide if it is enough. Any membership meeting can end a strike. Then, there is a referendum on the deal.
Will I lose money if we go on strike?
If you help out in the strike by doing picket duty, you will receive strike pay of up to $300.00/ week. We have a local strike fund of and access to CUPE National’s Strike Fund.
The local strike policy also permits interest free loans to members who face financial hardship on account of the strike. Members who are physically unable to perform picket-line duties will be given other duties to perform in order to earn picket pay. Members who incur childcare costs in order to attend at picket or related duties can have those reimbursed by the strike fund.
The bottom line is that all members are expected to help their colleagues in a strike situation. We have saved up money in our local strike fund so that all members can do so.
What is a picket line? What is strike duty?
If our union strikes, our members will be expected to quit performing all of our employment duties as teaching/research assistants or contract academic staff. Instead, we will be expected to participate in the strike.
Strike work will consist of 20 hours per week, either on picket lines or other duties as determined by the strike committee. Picket lines are set up to raise awareness among the public about the strike, slow traffic onto the campus, and encourage others not to cross the picket lines.
Strike pay is $300/week, which is paid by CUPE National.
Why should I care about all this?
The gains and protections we win in this round of collective bargaining, in this tiny part of a much larger sector, when combined with the results of collective bargaining efforts across our own union and in the other unions, will have an impact overall on working conditions and wages in all sectors of the economy. So no matter where you end up, unionized or non-unionized, your wages and working conditions will be improved as a result of the work done by unions. Like any market, upward pressure on wages and protections in one sector will put upward pressure in other sectors.
How can I help/get involved?
You can come out to the General Membership Meetings and Unit 1 and 2 Membership Meetings and actively participate in the deliberations. You can also attend other events the union is holding over the next several weeks. You can talk to your departmental steward and phone or email the union office with your feedback.
Most importantly, you can help make the strike vote a successful one, first, by voting yes, and then by encouraging as many colleagues as possible to vote yes.
You can also volunteer some of your time to help the union get its message out by joining a bargaining support committee or a phone tree.
Email or write us with any questions not answered here. Someone from the union office will respond personally and, if there are enough similar questions, we will run another sheet of Q&A.
Alternatively, you can continue to check this website for regular updates on bargaining. Also, contact the Union at 613-520-7482, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the union office, located in 511A Unicentre.