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The Happiness of Bargaining

Bargaining

Since April 2012, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has produced an annual World Happiness Report.  Canada has dropped a little to the seventh happiest country in the world (155 countries were studied for the 2017 report).  What does this have to do with bargaining?  Among the most important predictors of happiness is having employment, as well as the quality and security of the job.

In 2003, in another report, we discover that “workers across Canada are reporting wide-spread feelings of insecurity…Canada’s labour force is becoming more precarious with the growth of temporary and part-time wage work…”(Cranford et al).

Most of the 20 or so unions that comprise the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators (FPSE) have some precarious employment problems that they would want to begin correcting in the next round of bargaining.  In our 2014 collective bargaining agreement,[1] we settled for the promise of being able to bargain issues related to how our work has become more precarious over the last couple of decades, resulting in inequities that include secondary scales and less job security.  In other words, some colleges or universities have less employees who are “regularized” workers with all the standard benefits and non-regular workers are typically less well compensated and less secure in whether or not their work will be available to them.

This is an exciting time for collective bargaining in British Columbia.  The new government is believed to be supportive of education and more focused on correcting labour inequities. It is a time that would allow unions not only to bargain for improvement for their locals but to join in a “ Social Union Movement”  that has ignited reforms elsewhere (e.g., Chicago Public Schools, Toronto Labour laws).  Our preparation for bargaining in 2019 has begun, but after the bargaining conference at the end of February, I will be able to provide more details about how FPSE locals are coordinating efforts to bargain successfully.  Perhaps Canada as a whole will find itself as happy as it has been among the top five happiest countries in the world or at least not keep dropping in its ranking.

In a previous report, I explained that ” One significant issue negotiated first at the Template Table (aka Common Agreement) is establishing a committee to address “secondary scales” issues.  For example, some institutions pay non-regular employees only a percentage of what regulars are paid or they are barred from rising up the salary scale. A provincial committee will work on correcting these secondary scale inequities.  The goal is for management and union members to jointly present government the “business case” for correcting these inequalities in post-secondary education. For Selkirk College employees, the committee’s work will include looking at how online courses are paid.”

Victor Villa

VP Negotiations

50 Shades of Gray in Bargaining

Contracts

At the last round of bargaining, we changed the regularization language quite substantially.  For example, we got rid of annualization.  We now have new language as to how short-term members become regularized without annualization.

Bargaining is an interesting process.  We come into it with a list of things that are wrong and need to change.  At the end, we’ve talked about the majority of it, but quite a bit of the proposed changes never make it to the final document….that’s just reality.

The few proposals that are agreed to are converted into contract language.  That language is a carefully crafted piece of writing by both sides.  From the employer it is written to give just what they want to give and no more.  From the union perspective, we need to make sure it gives us what they proposed to give us.  What you don’t find are a lot of extra words, qualifying statements, etc., which would make the language crystal clear in all circumstances.  With all language in the collective the intent that was expressed in bargaining becomes important.  We try to flesh out the agreed-upon language in our discussion or notes.   We do this to minimize the amount of gray areas in the language.  Gray areas are where most of the grievances live.

“So why don’t we write more to minimize the gray areas?”  For two reasons.  If we wrote it all in, the document would be enormous and unwieldy.  Second, our relationship with the employer changes because the work changes over time.  What was relevant/important when the language was originally written may not apply or applies differently now.  Accordingly, you want to be careful to what you commit.

So what does this have to do with the regularization language?  Article 4.2.2 talks about how work is given to proportional regular members.  These are members with regular contracts less than 100%.  What isn’t explicit in the language is how the work is given, short term or regular.  The SCFA is arguing that all work given to proportional regular members should be given as regular.

When we bargained this new language, it was an example of give and take…both sides gave something and got something.  We gave them the ability to make it harder to get regularized.  Previously you could be regularized with any size contract.  Now, you have to have at least 50% or more for 3 years.  We see this as a potential “short term ghetto”…new people could be stuck in there longer because they can’t get enough work for 3 consecutive years.  The employer saves money by giving short-term contracts that are fewer than 12 months.

What we get out of the give and take is that our regular members that have room in their contract for more work will get it as regular right away.  This has the potential of costing the employer.  If the work is ephemeral, when it disappears, they need to pay severance of a portion of your regular contract.

Previous to today, some work has been given to proportional regular members as short term.  The SCFA will argue that this is now a violation of the collective.  Because I get copies of your contracts, I will be identifying when this happens and we will begin the grievance process.

If the employer accepts the grievance then we will make sure proportional regular members getting additional work had it given to them as regular work.   Stay Tuned.

Lui Marinelli

VP Contract Administration

Message from the President

News

The work of the SCFA executive moves forward on several fronts.

Our local and common agreements have just over a year to run. We are beginning to plan for bargaining. This includes forming a local committee led by our VP Negotiations, Victor Villa, and participating with the locals of 20 other colleges and universities in the Federation of Post-Secondary Educator’s province-wide process. We have to consider the timing for bargaining, potential allies and partners, and our demands. Secondary scales, which often affect non-regular members, is emerging again as a major provincial issue. Secondary scales include employers paying for the same work on different salary scales, capping the pay of non-regular members, and limiting the access of non-regular members to the seniority list. These issues of equity affect many members in the post-secondary system and threaten all of our working conditions. The recent strike of college instructors in Ontario revealed that only 20% of faculty had regular contracts. We believe that parts of our local agreement include secondary scales.

We also feel it is important to eliminate secondary scales across the system. In the coming months, we will survey you on your issues for bargaining and put out a call for members to participate in the work.  Please consider getting involved.

Our VP Negotiations, Lui Marinelli, is working on a couple of important grievances. One involves the regularization language in our local agreement. We believe that the college must give any sort of newly available work as regular work to members with regular contracts. In other words, the college should not give short-term contracts to members with regular contracts. Lui’s article deals with the significance of the regularization grievance in more depth. The other important grievance comes from the college’s introduction of a Manulife program called “Drug Watch” as part of our benefits package. Along with other locals across the province, we believe that “Drug Watch” represents the introduction of a formulary (a list of drugs which the carrier will cover or not) that we rejected at the common table during the last round of bargaining.  We have heard of the negative effects on members of other unions who agreed to a formulary in the last round.

Other issues that we raised at our recent Joint Labour-Management meeting include the safety and security of members and the effects on workload, educational programming, and student experience of the college’s sudden introduction of a large number of international students in January. Among other things, we feel that the college has taken advantage of our professionalism.

We will have a General Meeting on Tuesday, March 6 at 4pm. The agenda for the meeting will include a preliminary discussion of suggested changes to the SCFA Constitution. The membership will also be asked to vote on a motion to pay for release of the chair of the SCFA PD committees. Our VP Liaison, Rebecca Jacobson, has been working on our new SCFA website; we will be able to show you the final, updated version at the meeting.

My term as President ends at our AGM in the spring. In the meantime, I hope that I will be able to do more outreach to members, distribute SCFA membership cards and t-shirts, and give away our beautiful SCFA mugs. I would especially like to meet with our members at the college’s Nelson campuses. The chocolate is all gone; my goal is to have no membership cards, t-shirts, or mugs by the spring.

I hope that you have a great rest of your semester!

Duff Sutherland

President’s Message

News

President’s Message

 

For the first time in sixteen years, we have a new party in power in British Columbia. The SCFA and our provincial body, the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators, are non-partisan organizations. However, we have supported change that would lead to more accessible, affordable post-secondary education delivered by institutions that emphasize teaching and research rather than “leadership” and “innovation.”

We saw immediate change with the removal of tuition on ABE, ESL, and Prep courses. We are hoping for more including a return to an entirely publicly funded system rather than one that relies heavily on rising tuition, extra student fees, and mounting (and precarious) tuition fees from international students. Our students pays too much for their education. They work too much while taking courses and start their working lives with unacceptably high debt. Van City reported that BC students have amongst highest average student debt in Canada, averaging $30,856 in 2015. This is not news to SCFA members. We see the effects of these pressures on our students every day in our classes. We often know about it first-hand from our adult children who are taking post-secondary education. Nevertheless, it is an issue that we can work on together with the SCSU and now is the time to push for change with a new government.

So much for politics! The other focus of the SCFA this year is to engage you in your association. You should have an SCFA membership card now. It has contact information on it for Lui Marinelli, Chief Steward, Rebecca Jacobson, VP Liaison, and me. Union cards are humble but important things. They show you are a member of the SCFA and they connect you to a labour movement in which it has not always been safe to have a card. It would great to see cards on every member’s office bulletin board.

We are also trying to get you involved in the SCFA through activities, and events in which we share values. Members carried the SCFA banner in the Nelson Pride parade, and in the Castlegar “Take Back the Night” rally. The SCFA, along with PPWC and SCSU, was a sponsor of aboriginal services’ Orange Shirt Day. The SCOPE committee also put on a great event to celebrate the professional achievements of our members, and to provide a chance for us to have a social. Our Non-Regular committee representative, Leesa Dean, is planning to promote Fair Employment Week at the end of October. We are hoping to have a steward committee up and running by the end of the month.  All of this is part of our engagement project. Tell us how we are doing.

A final piece of positive news. FPSE now has a standing committee on Decolonization, Reconciliation, and Indigenous issues. Sue Hackett has agreed to be the SCFA’s first representative on that committee. We live in our hopes of something better.

I hope that you have a great semester.

 

Duff

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