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

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The Happiness of Bargaining

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