Volume 26, No. 13 Editor: Mark Langer March, 1996.

                         NEGOTIATIONS CRISIS

After a number of meetings at the negotiations table, the CUASA bargaining

team had reason to believe that progress was being made. At the March 27

meeting the team had been on the point of indicating agreement in

principle to a key management proposal. However, management announced

that it had decided to apply for "conciliation". It is vital to realize

that "conciliation" is not normally seen as involvement of a third party

with the aim of getting an agreement settling outstanding issues.

Conciliation under the Labour Relations Act is the legal precursor to a

lock-out or strike situation. We have information that there are those in

management who are cynically pushing CUASA toward a strike vote because

they believe that this will split the membership.

Before describing the implications of conciliation, we should review a

chronology of events and describe what management has put on the table.

October 16 - CUASA notifies the employer that we are prepared to begin


January 22 - management forms a committee that finally meets with CUASA.

At the first meeting, CUASA's team is handed a letter stating formally

that management has opted out of the provision in the Collective Agreement

for binding arbitration on financial matters. This came as a considerable

surprise, since the current agreement requires the arbitrator to take into

account the employer's ability to pay. The employer puts its opening

position on the table, much of it not in contract language.

February 8 - after four months of footdragging and a month of discussion,

management's team informs CUASA that they have no mandate from the Board

of Governors to negotiate on CUASA's proposals. February 15, the employer

returns to the table with a mandate.

March 12 - the employer presents the operating budget figures. Two other

meetings follow in which we question the employer about the budget and the

assumptions behind it. Despite our request for the ancillary budget,

neither it nor the capital budget is presented.

March 27 - CUASA comes to a negotiating meeting prepared to signal its

agreement in principle to key proposals by management. The meeting begins

with the statement by management's team that the employer has decided to

proceed directly to conciliation, bypassing any intermediate steps such as

formal mediation. CUASA asks management if it is aware of the

consequences of its actions. Management's team answers yes, and the

meeting ends.

March 28 - CUASA asks the employer for a copy of the letter requesting

conciliation. The letter gives no reason for this application to the

Ministry. CUASA informs management of its intent to seek a strike



Conciliation is not mediation. Conciliation is the legal precursor in

Ontario to a strike or a lockout. The most likely outcome of conciliation

is that the conciliator will file a "no board report". Two weeks after a

"no board report" is accepted by the Minister of Labour, and the concerned

parties are notified, a strike or lock-out can be declared. Article 22.3

provides for the collective agreement to continue until a strike or

lock-out is declared. The employer could impose a lock-out and as at

Memorial University the employer could then dictate whatever terms and

conditions of employment that it wishes.

Vice-President and Acting President Les Copley, speaking at the March 27

Board of Governors' meeting, stated that there is nothing exceptional

about the employer's action. He cited the recent application for

conciliation made by CUPE 3815 (sessionals). What he did not observe is

that, in that case, both sides had ample discussion of their proposals and

counterproposals. More significantly, management was not seeking major

concessions from sessionals who had no current collective agreement in


If a "no board report" is filed, after April 30, 1996, our present

contract will continue only until a strike or lockout is declared.


Management has proposed the following:

  1. The employer demands the right to fire academic staff on the basis of

Program Redundancy. Management has not been willing to state which

programs will be made redundant. In its budget projections for 1996-97,

management has a $3 million expenditure item intended to address Program


  1. The university wishes to reduce our total compensation by 8%. In other

words, in excess of $7,000 will be deducted from an average annual salary.

Lifetime earnings and future pension benefits would be reduced

accordingly. This is a greater reduction in compensation than that in

agreement negotiated by any university faculty in Canada this year. It

exceeds by at least 25% the pay cut management has informed us that they

will require from other bargaining units on campus.

  1. Management has decided that the entire cost of early retirement for

members of our unit (which are paid out over three years) will come out of

our salaries in one year. The more early retirements reduce our

bargaining unit (and the more the university's salary base is reduced),

the greater the reduction in our salaries.

  1. Management wishes the power to suspend any member of the bargaining

unit without pay at the unrestricted discretion of the President.

The employer's manoeuvre means that CUASA has the following options:

  1. capitulate to all management proposals at the bargaining table.

  2. provide a strike mandate to our bargaining team so that it can bargain

effectively during conciliation.

Throughout, the union negotiating team was prepared to submit its own

financial proposals as soon as they were provided with proper financial

disclosure which had been repeatedly requested.

We believe that management's footdragging, their cancellation of the

Collective Agreement's provision for binding arbitration, their refusal to

pursue discussions of the vital financial issue beyond three meetings or

to enter the mediation process, and the known consequences of applying for

conciliation form a pattern of behaviour strongly suggestive that the

university had no intention of bargaining with us from the beginning.

Management assumes that any attempt to get a strike vote by our unit would

meet the same fate as the attempt made by CUPE 2323 the teaching

assistants' union. Once that failed, the employer imposed its own

conditions on that bargaining unit. They now clearly intend to impose

conditions on academic staff that are both draconian and significantly

worse than those at any other university in the country. What is most

disturbing is that the employer has decided to act in this manner just at

the point when projected enrolment for 1996-97 is down by 20%. An action

that can so obviously precipitate a strike or lockout just at the time

when potential students are deciding on their choice of university is

grossly negligent, if not irresponsible.

The CUASA Steering Committee and Council have decided that there is only

one option open to us at this time, failing our appeal to the employer to

reconsider its position in light of the probable consequences.

A meeting of all CUASA members will be held at Tuesday, April 16 at 12:30

in the Minto Theatre in order to discuss this issue of vital concern to