fter an intensive four-month campaign, full-time and part-time faculty at the University of Western Ontario have voted 65 per cent in favour of certification. With over three-quarters of the 1,250 eligible faculty casting a ballot, full-time professors voted 63 per cent in favour and part-time faculty 82 per cent.
The University of Western Ontario Faculty Association will become a certified trade union once the parties resolve, in front of the Ontario Labour Relations Board, whether or not full-time and part-time faculty should form a single bargaining unit or two separate units.
The university administration contends that responsibilities and interests of part-timers are different. The labour board's decision will not affect on the trade union status of UWOFA.
UWOFA President Andrew Osler was ecstatic with the results, calling attention to the hard work of the certification committee chaired by Marjorie Ratcliffe and her team of "incredibly enthusiastic" volunteers.
"This has been an absolutely incredible process, and no words of mine can adequately praise the dedication of Marjorie Ratcliffe," he said. "Wonderful."
Osler added that he doubted people outside Western, or those who have not been through a university certification drive, could appreciate the courage of those involved.
"This was something like a war, and I am impressed more than I shall ever be able to express by the sheer courage demonstrated by my colleagues who stood their ground in this morally urgent matter."
But, he noted, he found the result powerfully sobering. "Western's faculty now must consider how they wish to apply the powers which the Labour Relations Act provides," he said. "We are looking forward, at last, to sitting down at a bargaining table where smothering hypocrisies no longer prevail, and where we will possess real authority to speak for our members.
"But we also have to keep very much in mind the fact that we have an obligation to use these powers to build greatness in our university. In the final analysis, that's what Western's professors voted for."
Osler's words were based on his experience with the administration representatives' attitude at the bargaining table. He was part of the association bargaining team which met initially with the administration to bargain towards a comprehensive (non-union) agreement.
After nine months, progress had been minimal. The administration wanted to maintain the board of governors' power to unilaterally impose the majority of articles in the comprehensive agreement.
Early last fall the executive of the association felt it had to withdraw the mandate of its bargaining team because of the lack of progress in talks.
Shortly after that, the administration's bargaining team began to publicly question the representativeness of the UWOFA bargaining team and executive. Now, this is no longer in question.
The certification campaign began in late October. The certification committee made and distributed information leaflets. It created a certification web site. Supporters signed membership cards, wore pro-certification buttons and wrote articles advocating unionization in the university's newspaper. Guest speakers were invited to address Western faculty on the impact of certification at their respective universities.
In the meantime, the administration also established a web site and wrote letters to faculty to convince them not to unionize -- tying unionization to the threat of strikes.
By the last week of February, the certification committee had a considerable number of cards signed and Professor Ratcliffe made an application for certification to the labour board.
In the days just prior to the vote, the administration attempted a final coup de grace. The same coup that is believed to have been responsible for the demise of certification at the University of Waterloo.
The administration requested that all eligible faculty be allowed to vote by mail, even though this goes against the labour board's policy. However, if refused, it would appear that the association was trying to exclude some faculty members from the democratic voting process.
The Brock University administration tried the same tactic in the recent certification campaign at Brock.
The election vote, supervised by the board, was held on March 4 and 5, 1998.
Paul Davenport, president of the University of Western Ontario conceded: "Now that the vote has been taken and faculty members have decided to certify, it is important to resume discussions and sign a collective agreement which benefits both sides."
This is the third union to certify since Dr. Davenport began his presidency at Western: the teaching assistants and the staff preceded the faculty in their successful drives for unionization.