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UNBC, faculty association meet over weekend but no deal yet

UNBC faculty will be back on the picket lines this morning after a bargaining session between the UNBC Faculty Association and the university over the weekend failed to result in a contract deal.

As the strike enters its third week, the union accused the university of unnecessarily delaying bargaining.

“Delays of any kind in collective bargaining are unfortunate,” said Stephen Rader, President of the UNBCFA. “But we are now reaching a point of no return for the semester and we are extremely worried about our students.”

On Thursday UNBC posted a bargaining update outlining some of what has been offered.

“The offer still includes a superior compensation model featuring competitive wages,” according to the university bargaining update. “Importantly, the offer now includes the removal of non-monetary issues deemed as key rights by the FA.”

The offer:

Ensures that the salary structure is aligned with the competitive benchmarks agreed to by the FA and the Employer in the Working Group on Compensation (formed following the last strike).

Ensures that starting salaries are competitive and facilitate the recruitment of outstanding faculty.

Ensures salary adjustments are distributed equitably across ranks.

Ensures that the salary ranges and annual Career Development Increments (CDI) for faculty (increased from $1,111 to $2,700) are financially sustainable past this agreement.

“The focus of the 2019 round of bargaining has been to increase the salaries of faculty,” reads the update. “Both bargaining teams know that limited funding is available and that the funding envelope must fall within the province’s mandate.”

Highlights of the compensation offer include the following:

Tenured and Tenure-track faculty

  • Closes the salary gap between our faculty salaries and the average salaries of faculty at our comparator universities.
  • Average salary increases of approximately 15% over three years which vary depending on the individual rank and number of years in rank.
  • Annual Career Development Increment (CDI) increase from $1,111 to $2,700.

Librarians

  • Annual CDI increase from $1,111 to $2,200.
  • A 9% increase to salary ranges over three years resulting in a general wage increase of 9% over three years.

Senior Lab Instructors

  • A new Senior Lab Instructor Rank IV, creating additional career-growth and earning opportunities for senior lab instructors.
  • A new career path opportunity for teaching-focused SLIs (new designation – Senior Instructor).
  • An annual increase to the CDI of 2%.
  • A 6% increase to salary ranges over three years resulting in a general wage increase of 6% over three years.

“What we clearly heard from our members, however, was that they were disappointed with the employers’ bargaining update,” said Rader. “The many inconsistencies, logic gaps and errors in that update were apparent to many of our members before the bargaining team presented their own update. I think it’s fair to say that the employer sought to divide our membership. The unanimous vote of confidence given to the UNBCFA bargaining team by its members this morning should send a strong message to the employers that this sort of student will only strengthen our resolve to achieve a sector-norm collective agreement.”

He said the contentious issues in the university’s offer are:

An untested pay structure that the faculty association says will lead to a gender-based inequality in pay. The proposed UNBCFA pay structure is similar to other universities and would minimize gender inequality, Rader said.

He added the UNBC offer would allow it to break contracts with some of its members who fall outside the collective agreement.

Since those contracts are between the individual and the employer, Rader says agreeing to the provision could put the union in legal jeopardy and financial risk.

The union also wants to the right to communicate directly with members’ physicians in ways, it believes, infringe on legal privacy rights.

“We must achieve a sector-norm collective agreement since it is so vital for the long-term sustainability of a university that we love so much,” said Rader. “The absolutely last thing we want to see is difficult bargaining two-and-a-half years from now that could lead to another strike. We need to fix a broken system so we can get everyone back to class and the workplace. The future of our great university depends on our actions at the bargaining table right now.”

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