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CAUT Bulletin Archives

January 1999

Examining Bargaining Issues

Jeanette Lynes

Conference reveals equity clauses as vital components of any faculty contract.

The collective bargaining sessions at the 1998 CAUT Status of Women Conference in Regina examined a range of issues including the basics of collective bargaining, a review of equity clauses in existing collective agreements, and future directions for collective bargaining.

Joyce Lorimer, along with Gary Tompkins of the Collective Bargaining and Economic Benefits Committee, covered the basics of collective bargaining. Dr. Lorimer discussed the importance of bargaining in the maintenance of academic freedom and the ongoing challenge of putting in place an inclusive university.

Several key points were emphasized, one being that any bargaining unit will have a diversity of interests. A negotiating team should reflect the diversity of the bargaining unit and relative needs in the group should be balanced so that some relative consensus can be built.

Solidarity within bargaining units is crucial, and to maintain this there should not be groups within an association who feel marginalized. An association with marginalized groups has not achieved solidarity. In order to maintain solidarity during bargaining, the membership needs to be conversant with and supportive of what is going on at the bargaining table.

Marginalized groups need to ensure their issues get on the agenda as priorities, not as simply "throw away" items. The will to keep these issues on the table must come from the membership. It is important to build a network of alliances between groups with agreed mutual objectives. Marginalized groups whose interests have not normally been at the table need to raise their profile within the association before negotiations.

Dr. Lorimer also suggested that when equity issues are being negotiated, it can be an effective strategy to bring people into the room as observers.

A lively brainstorming session on the first day was facilitated by Helen Breslauer. Most of the discussion focused on harassment and support for faculty and students.

Several faculty associations are trying to implement internal policy with respect to co-worker harassment. Procedures for resolving harassment by one member of another member are underdeveloped; the union might consider making the harasser take education, or moving a harrasser to another area of the workplace.

The need for measures to deal with harassment by students of minority faculty was also discussed. Enforcement frameworks are needed. Even when a university appoints a task force on creating a more positive climate, as UNB has, what does this mean in concrete terms?

In terms of support, it was observed there is often insufficient support for students of colour and aboriginal students, and retention rates are a concern. In the area of support for faculty, several universities now offer mentoring programs and/or pre-tenure workshops.

The brainstorming session ended with some suggestions for monitoring equity. These included: joint workshops between administration and faculty associations; publicizing equity issues; monitoring equity; equity education; awareness of equity issues in curricula; harassment officers; performance indicators for equity such as those generated by OCUFA and CAUT; and retention data.

In the session reviewing equity clauses in existing collective agreements, Dr. Lorimer reminded delegates that CAUT has a collective agreement data base.

A collection of equity clauses was distributed, including clauses addressing: nondiscrimination; occupational health and safety; duty to accommodate (e.g. tenure candidates with disabilities may be given extra time); provision for equity assessment and reporting; collection of statistics during hires; same sex spousal benefits; professional rights and responsibilities; leaves; balance between teaching and research.

If equity measures are included in a collective agreement they can be enforced by the union, in contrast to policies unilaterally implemented by the university administration.

On the second afternoon of the conference, Barb Byers and Ina Kagis from the Saskatchewan labour movement spoke on the topic "what future equity clauses should we ask for?" Ms. Byers made the point that bargaining is more than being at the table. She said that members have to be educated and understand the issues. She also emphasized the importance of networking within the broader labour community.

Both speakers sought input from delegates on what the perfectly equitable contract would have to include.

Suggestions included: accommodation for disabled people; benefits and equitable treatment for contract faculty; pay equity; clear criteria for tenure and promotion; same sex benefits; release time for union activities; people hired to do equity work, since faculty can't do everything; careful outline of goals, time limits and processes; good record-keeping and evaluation mechanisms; family-friendly policies; involvement of the association in equity issues around hiring which follow the faculty member through his or her career.

It is clear that incorporating equity language in collective agreements remains an ongoing objective if we want to achieve an inclusive and equitable academy for all. The collective bargaining sessions provided a wealth of information on a multitude of bargaining issues.

Jeanette Lynes is a member of CAUT's Status of Women Committee.

The CAUT Status of Women Committee is grateful to the speakers and note takers for these sessions.