The Happiness of 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

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