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Faculty union awaits conciliation amid “disrespectful” negotiations with Queen’s

Last Updated on January 25, 2023 by YGK News Staff

Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA) has elected to forego mediation with Queen’s University, stating that the university gave no signal that they were prepared to meaningfully engage and come to a complete collective agreement.

The mediation was agreed upon by both sides in mid-November, but QUFA President Jordan Morelli said the union reached out for confirmation from the university that they were prepared to work out a final agreement this weekend and never received such from Queen’s.

Morelli said with no assurances made on that account and both sides also previously agreeing to meet with a Ministry appointed conciliator, the union figured mediation could very well be a waste of time and resources.

“Having our hands tied in that way, in the absence of confirmation from the university’s side,” Morelli said.

“We were better off to give our bargaining team their weekend back to spend with their families and have them prepare for conciliation than do mediation.”

QUFA released an open letter on December 9 expressing concern with the university’s conduct during bargaining, saying outside of a few notable exceptions, Queen’s has failed to meaningfully engage in contract talks.

The union says it will instead use the time earmarked for negotiation to prepare for January conciliation.

“QUFA will not spend membership time and resources in a mediation process when the University’s negotiators are unable or unwilling to confirm whether they have a mandate to resolve outstanding issues,” the letter reads.

In a response to QUFA’s letter, Queen’s released a statement on Monday saying they were disappointed that QUFA backed away from mediation.

“The university has been negotiating with QUFA on numerous non-monetary demands that they have tabled,” said Queen’s spokesperson Mark Erdman in the statement.

“Those efforts have been progressing. QUFA’s decision to end their participation in mediation delays the completion of collective bargaining aimed at renewing the collective agreement for faculty, librarians, and archivists.”

QUFA says significant progress was made in negotiations pertaining to librarians and archivists, succeeding in making gains in the most important areas identified by members in those positions.

Job security for adjuncts however – considered the most precarious of workers represented by QUFA – has remained a sticking point with little progress being made.

While Morelli says those agreements are appreciated by the union, there hasn’t been any real movement on some of the most important aspects identified by members.

“There’s been almost no progress on those very fundamental things that our members told us right from the beginning that those were the most important things this round of bargaining,” Morelli said.

“The very minimal progress on those things is a huge problem.”

Morelli says that the recent court decision declaring the wage suppressing Bill 124 unconstitutional hasn’t really shifted the compensation requests made by QUFA.

He says with negotiations beginning in June, the union was fully prepared to accept a 1% increase throughout the collective agreement and has instead crafted non-monetary proposals that help address the job security and equity of members.

“The university might try to paint this as, you know, QUFA’s being greedy,” Morelli said.

“But that’s not at all the case, we are prepared as we always have been to negotiate a fair collective agreement with the university which includes compromises on both sides of the bargaining table. We’re ready to get back to the bargaining table whenever they’re ready to come with meaningful, substantive proposals or meaningful responses to our proposals rather than just saying no to them.”

Queen’s University has found itself in negotiations with a variety of different staff unions over the past twelve months, with some discussions becoming more contentious than others.

Morelli says in his eyes, that’s largely because of a bigger issue of the province refusing to adequately invest in its people through healthcare and education.

“The reality is that the provincial government has underfunded education for so long just like they’ve underfunded health care and look at the situation our nurses are in,” Morelli said.

“Bill 124 is an example of their overreach… their invocation of the notwithstanding clause against the education workers is an example of their disdain for education and for healthcare professionals. It’s really not healthy for our society to have a government that is underfunding education and healthcare.” 

On its website, QUFA has listed a comprehensive list of proposals and concessions made by both sides at the bargaining table, up to date as of December 13.

There is no official date for conciliation but it is expected to take place in January.

A strike vote opened for QUFA members this week, with the results of that vote expected to be declared on Wednesday.

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporterhttps://ygknews.ca
Born and raised in Whitby, Ontario, Owen has been living in Kingston for about three years after starting the band Willy Nilly. Prior to that he worked at CKLB radio in Yellowknife and completed studies in Niagara College's Broadcasting program.

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