BUFA

BUFA Announcements & Press Releases


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October 17, 2011
  • WE WANT TO BE BACK IN THE CLASSROOM: WITH A FAIR DEAL.

    THE ISSUES

    Quality of Learning – BUFA’s working environment is students’ learning environment

    BUFA has requested guarantees of sessional replacements which are necessary for the stability and continuity of program delivery, especially in small departments. The Employer has flatly rejected this.

    The Employer seeks to expand the provision of online courses and distance delivery to replace classroom teaching. BUFA wants to protect the quality of the personal learning environment. This is especially important in the context of the Employer’s resistance to sabbatical replacements.

    BUFA seeks reduced teaching loads to better balance teaching and research, and bring Brandon University closer to national university standards, while providing for the means to ensure that course delivery is not impacted. The Employer refuses to make such provisions.

    Job Security for Sessional Instructors

    Sessional instructors work for low wages and no benefits, and have no job security. BUFA is simply asking for basic job security and modest wage increases which would dramatically improve recruitment and retention of quality undergraduate instructors. BUFA also seeks provisions for the conversion to regular status of instructors who are employed as sessionals on an ongoing basis. Such provisions are common at many universities in Canada. Again, the Employer refuses to offer any progress toward these goals.

    A Respectful Environment

    BUFA is requesting transparency in the collection and maintenance of personnel files, and continues to work toward a more collegial and workable Respectful Environment Policy.

    No Clawbacks

    The administration is asking us to accept decreases in the inflation-adjusted earnings we take home over the three year life of the contact. In light of the known increases to the government grant, this would be a significant setback. BUFA wants to minimize the erosion of salaries against increases in cost-of-living.

    STUDENTS & ACADEMIC STAFF UNITED

    Quality teaching conditions are essential for quality learning conditions. Brandon University Faculty Association wants to preserve the conditions necessary to attract the best teachers/researchers, and to foster the best education possible for Brandon students.

    The University’s attempt to force students to cross picket lines is unfair. It undermines our call for quality working conditions.

    We want to be back in the classroom teaching as soon as possible with a fair collective agreement. It’s simple.

    For more information, contact: 720-0878



  • Negotiations Update. BUFA Bargaining Team

    9:00 p.m. October 17, 2011

    After a lengthy discussion with the conciliator this morning, BUFA negotiators met with the employer at 2:30 pm and tabled  a comprehensive proposal. In it, we made substantial and significant concessions on monetary issues in an attempt to reduce the gap between BUFA and the Employer, and make a deal. After our presentation the employer retired to examine the proposal. At 6 pm, the employer returned with the same monetary offer of 0.5-1.0-2.75 with no floor or ceiling increases.

    Conciliation will resume tomorrow at 11:30 am.

    Derek Brown, Joe Dolecki, Elisabeth MacDonald-Murray, Bill Paton, David Winter

    BUFA Bargaining Team



  • Letter of Support. Linda Guse, Executive Director, University of Manitoba Faculty Association

    Hi all,

    On behalf of Cam Morrill, UMFA President, I am pleased to announce that the University of Manitoba Faculty Association has sent a donation of $2500 to the Brandon University Faculty Association in support of their job action.

    We are particularly concerned about  the President of Brandon University contacting members of faculty about returning to their classrooms while BUFA is on strike and telling students that they are responsible for keeping up with assignments in such cases.  Students should not be discriminated

    against on the basis of their political beliefs.

    In Solidarity,
    UMFA

    Linda Guse, PhD
    Executive Director
    University of Manitoba Faculty Association

    100-29 Dysart Rd.
    Winnipeg, Manitoba  R3T 2M7
    Office # :    204-474-8282
    Fax # :       204-474-7548



October 16, 2011
  • Talks at BU to Resume Monday.

    The Brandon University Faculty Association (BUFA) announced today that Conciliation efforts aimed at concluding a new Collective Agreement, which broke down late Friday afternoon, will resume on Monday morning.

    The announcement came as the strike by BUFA members enters its fifth day.

    In commenting on this development, BUFA President and Chief Negotiator Joe Dolecki said, “BUFA has initiated the resumption of Conciliation talks because we wish to move the bargaining process forward.”

    “We are determined to use this opportunity to resolve this dispute expeditiously,” he said, “and to this end, BUFA will be submitting a revised package of contract proposals which, we believe, will serve as the basis of a fair and equitable settlement.”

    The current Collective Agreement, which was signed following a 17-day strike in 2008, expired on March 31.

    BUFA represents approximately 240 full-time equivalent employees at Brandon University – including Professors, Sessional Instructors, Librarians, Instructional Associates, Professional Associates, and Administrative Associates.

    For Further Information Contact:
    Joe Dolecki, BUFA President and Chief Negotiator. 727-9749
    Bill Paton, BUFA Secretary 727- 9783



  • Understanding University Salary Structures.

    Understanding University Salary Structures1

    This article is intended to provide members of BUFA, BUSU and the public with information that we trust will clarify the nature of university faculty salaries in Canada and assist all concerned in reaching informed opinions in response to previous (and anticipated future) media releases relating to the on-going negotiations between BUFA and the administration of Brandon University. We hope to demonstrate two key points in this discussion: By including salary increments (explained below) in the estimation of increases in salaries over the life of the contract, the University is 1) cultivating a false impression that BUFA members are simply greedy; and 2) making a false claim about the (un)affordability of BUFA’s salary proposals.

    Several years ago, then Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) President Michael Piva wrote a very helpful explanation of university salary structures, the nature of career development increments, and the problems created when they are mistaken for – or misrepresented as –‘raises'. This article amplifies on certain key points in Piva's article in the context of the current negotiations between BUFA and the employer.

    A 1988 study by Hay Management Consultants showed that university faculty career earnings were significantly lower than comparable positions in the private or public sector. According to the Hay report, average total career earnings at that time were as follows:

    • Universities $1,673,600
    • Private Sector overall $2,180,976
    • Private Sector professionals $2,273,424
    • Public Sector $1,904,128

    This situation has not changed during the last 25 years, and indeed has been further exacerbated as funding of post-secondary education has continued to be eroded.

    The above numbers arise from a paradox that is unique to the academic profession. University professors receive, compared to many other groups, very high average salaries at the end of their careers. Yet the average annual salary for University faculty over the course of a full career is less than most other occupations. How can this be?

    The simple answer is that while annual salaries for late-career full professors are very high relative to the general labour market, others in the labour market earn their lower annual salaries often for 10-15 years before the university professor was even hired. As a consequence, even the highest-paid, full professors still do not catch up with the career earnings of those who choose to enter the labour market directly after high school, or following an undergraduate degree. The salary system that is used in most universities is meant to compensate partly for this differential.

    To understand the university salary system, it is important to distinguish between two components of salary increases over an academic career. First, faculty members may receive ‘scale increases.’ These are the proposed percent values that are reported in the media, usually broken down for each year of the contract. Second, faculty members normally receive some form of ‘career development increment.’ Universities usually include these in their estimations of faculty members’ increases over the life of the contract. However, for the reasons outlined below, they should not be viewed as annual ‘raises’, but rather as ‘deferred earnings.’

    University professors have an extraordinarily long preparatory period as we "learn the job". This is in the region of 15-20 years for the vast majority, exceeding that of trainee doctors, lawyers and veterinarians. On entering their careers, in their mid- to late-30s, university professors start at salaries far below the ‘averages’ often used by administrations to illustrate their offers, and far below what they can reasonably expect to earn much later in their careers. This gap is extremely wide by labour market standards. Progress toward the higher salaries occurs through yearly career development increments that are small and spread over the entire career.

    When faculty sign on with the Canadian University system they willingly buy into this salary system that includes regular annual increases (or increments), spread over the course of their career. Initial salaries are very low by labour market standards, particularly at Brandon University, which has one of the lowest starting salary scales in the country. These low starting salaries are accepted with an understanding that the upper reaches of the salary scale will be attained by retirement because of the annual increment system. These are sufficient to ensure relatively high earnings starting, on average, in a professor’s mid- to late- 40s. The increment system was designed to allow life time salaries to ‘average out’ – although as the data above shows, university professors still earn less than average public and private sector employees over the entire career. When salary controversies arise, what typically gets reported is an overall percentage increase. It is important to recognize that these percentages actually have two components: one which is rightly considered a ‘raise’, and another (the yearly increment) which properly should be considered as deferred compensation.

    When faculty accept scale increases (‘raises’) below the level of inflation, what happens essentially is that the deferred compensation yearly increment is used by the employer to fund salaries. It is misleading – and damaging – to represent such salary increases as ‘raises’ because despite an increase in pay, faculty are losing further ground on career earnings. And it is worth remembering that a dollar paid later is worth less than a dollar paid now.

    Let’s look at it another way. In the university system, professors are given initial salaries well below the market value of their level of training: they have been students living on subsistence income for many years, while their counterparts in the public and private sector have been earning solid incomes and earning promotions (and paying off mortgages). So salary scales are structured to permit professors to ‘catch up’ (at least in theory) over the course of a career. Each time a senior professor retires, his or her salary returns to the employer, who is supposed to use the difference between that rather substantial salary and the low salary paid the new replacement professor (assuming the hiring of one is approved) to fund the career increments of those who remain. Thus, in reality, career development increments cost the employer nothing – provided of course that the employer does not spend the retirement savings on something else.

    In this dispute, the University has claimed that BUFA are demanding a 37% increase (the accuracy of this number has been addressed in a separate article) in salaries and benefits. They have further indicated that the University’s offer will see an increase in a hypothetical Associate Professor’s salary from $88,600 to $100,335. What is neglected in the press releases is that these numbers include the annual increments, which as outlined above, do not actually cost the employer any additional expenditure and neither are, nor were intended to be, a salary raise. In reality, the University’s current offer of 0.5%, 1.0%, and 2.75% involves less than $6,000 of new salary expenditure required by the employer for this hypothetical Associate Professor, spread over 3 years. Over this same three year period, the University has already been guaranteed in excess of 5% per year increases in operating grant from the provincial government (which makes up nearly 75% of the University’s total budget), providing in excess of $4.88 million extra operating revenue. This is before any annual increases in tuition fees. BUFA has requested scale increases (raises) of 3.5%, 3.8% and 4.0%, which requires new salary expenditure of $2.6 million. As such, BUFA’s proposal actually reduces the percentage of operating budget that is spent on faculty salaries. This request is also in line with the latest Statistics Canada consumer price index, which showed an increase of 3.0% in the year to August 2011 in Manitoba, while bringing faculty salaries at Brandon University in line with those at our provincial counterparts at the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg and Université de Saint Boniface.

    BUFA maintains that our salary position is fair and reasonable, and will cost the University far less than they would lead you to believe.

    Note:
    1. In 1998, Wayne Bowman wrote an article for BUFA members and the wider community, providing a brief background on the nature and structure of university faculty salaries. The current document is adapted from that (with full permission from Wayne), with some updates to reflect the current round of negotiations.



  • BU's Priority Breaking Union, Not Supporting Students.

    Brandon University has elected during the current job action by BUFA not to lock out all BUFA members. They claim that a sizable minority of faculty wish to continue teaching during the strike, and that they support this right for ‘moral reasons’. We believe that the outcome of this decision could not be more detrimental to the long term health of the institution, and will certainly have a negative impact on students.

    During the strike of 2008, the University provided the following rationale for instituting the lockout:

    We are very much aware of the unwelcome consequences that this [strike] holds for students. When strike action results in the uneven cancellation of classes, students schedules are disrupted, commuter students are significantly disadvantaged and some students may have most of their classes continue while others will not. Therefore, Brandon University has elected to lock out all BUFA members effective immediately. This decision ensures that when classes resume, any accommodation that may be required to address lost days of study can be applied evenly and will take into account the needs of students in various programs.

    • Brandon University administration, September 29, 2008

    Clearly, at that time, the primary interest was the fair and equitable treatment of all students during and after the strike. It was one of the few things they got right.

    This time, students are concerned about the situation in which the current Administration’s decision to attempt to offer a limited number of classes puts them. Many want to support the vast majority of faculty who will not cross the line, but they are rightly worried about the consequences of missing those classes that do go ahead. We note that the University’s strike FAQ (for students) does not offer any advice to students facing this decision, and, after repeatedly asking for it, students have been provided no assurance that they will not be penalized for acting according to their conscience in this matter. Rather, the university has stated that students have a “moral choice” to make, while implying that there will be repercussions facing students who respect the picket line and do not attend resumed classes. It is not much of a choice. Indeed, the University has declared lockouts “morally repugnant”. The contrast with their position in 2008 is stark. It is abundantly clear that the students are not the primary concern of the administration in this dispute.

    Encouraging faculty and students to cross the line cannot aid in the resolution of the collective bargaining. According to U of M labour relations expert Julie Guard, it is an “unusual move”, while James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, calls it “unprecedented and destructive.” Crossing the line creates deep divisions among faculty, among students, and between faculty and students. The scars of such wounds do not heal in weeks, or months, or even years. The repercussions can last decades.

    Administration has implied that locking us out last time led to the longest job action in BU’s history. BUFA would like to remind them that a lockout was executed during the 1998 job action too – the shortest in BU’s history. The length of the job action in 2008 was not the result of the lockout. Julie Guard suggests that the no-lockout strategy is likely to prolong the strike. BUFA agrees. By opposing the strike, those faculty members who cross the line are ensuring the action will last longer, and that students will be treated inequitably. BUFA wants neither of these outcomes.



  • Message to BUFA Members. Joe Dolecki, BUFA President and Chief Negotiator

    As you know, BUFA and the Employer will resume the Conciliation process on Monday morning. It is your bargaining team’s objective to successfully conclude this round of negotiations through this process.

    We have said many times that each negotiation has its own dynamic, and the same is true of this one. In this case, the dynamic was informed by two unprecedented actions by the Employer: the utilization of out-of-province consultants in the preparation of the Employer’s proposals; and the hiring of Mr. Grant Mitchell, a noted anti-union lawyer from Winnipeg, to head the Employer’s bargaining team. Both developments signaled to us that this round of bargaining would be challenging.

    Talks were supposed to commence in April, however the contents of the provincial budget, which granted BU operating fund increases of 5.4%-5.4%-5.4% over the next three years, caused the Employer to seek a postponement until May.

    In May, you will recall, the Employer tabled an 80-page set of proposals, opening virtually every Article of our Collective Agreement. This approach is unprecedented in BUFA’s bargaining history, and we have been advised that it has almost no precedent in the experience of other universities.

    Moreover, the nature and substance of these proposed changes were sweeping. They amounted to a fundamental restructuring of the terms and conditions of our employment at BU - particularly in such areas as QXR, appointments, promotion, tenure, evaluations, and work rules. In addition, the Employer advanced a salary “offer” 0%-0%-2%.

    As our Negotiations Bulletins have documented, bargaining over these matters occupied most of the attention at the table. There was almost no progress made on substantive language issues, and almost no discussion of monetary ones, over the summer. This was due, in part, to the Employer’s scheduling difficulties, which reduced the number of meeting times available and also, in part, to the reluctance of the Employer to advance coherent rationales for, and to consider modifications of, their positions.

    When ‘rationales’ were presented, they involved incorrect and empirically unverifiable presuppositions, such as the regrettable (and false) assertion that BU’s current compliment of faculty is ‘inferior’ to that of ‘peer’ institutions. At other times, these ‘rationales’ revealed the clear intention of the Employer to erase our collegially based Agreement (which represents in the Employer’s view, BU’s ‘institutional past’) and replace it with an industrial one (which the Employer sees as the BU of the ‘future’). It became apparent to your bargaining team that the distance between the Parties was vast.

    It is a matter of record that the Employer began to modify of these proposals only because of the resistance of  BUFA members.

    Thus, when they became aware of the scheduling of our  Special General Meeting to discuss negotiations – which historically has led to the conduct of a strike vote – the Employer withdrew one of it’s most remarkable proposals on evaluations and workload assignment: the proposal to permit a Dean to unilaterally add 3 credit hours to the workload of members whose research was deemed by that  Dean to be “unsatisfactory.”

    When the Employer was advised of the outcome of our strike vote, they began offering modifications to their substantive proposals, most of which were ill-thought out and were at variance with their stated objectives. The most striking of these was the proposal on appointment letters, which could and (as the Employer confirmed) would include a statement offering an appointment to a candidate while simultaneously stating that the candidate was unqualified for that appointment.

    Finally, when your bargaining team advised the Employer of a strike deadline, real movement on substantive issues began. Indeed, during the marathon session held last Tuesday, the Employer withdrew almost all of its proposals on QXR, appointments, tenure, promotion and evaluations, and began to move marginally on the monetary issues.

    These developments represent real victories for BUFA members.  They were achieved only because we stood together ready to take job action in pursuit of a fair and equitable collective agreement.

    Over the last few days of job action, the dynamic of this negotiation has changed. It has become increasingly clear that the Employer is less interested in a settlement than it is in breaking our strike and, through this, our union.

    The Employer has invited (and, if reports from members prove accurate, attempted to coerce) BUFA members to go back to work, despite the fact that the Employer agreed, in the Strike Protocol, to a partial lock out. The Employer has publicly uttered statements that many construe as threatening academic or other penalties to BU students, should they exercise their right to honour our picket lines and refuse to attend any classes that may be running. The Employer has refused undertakings intended to mitigate the potential long-term damage to the University’s environment ingredient in these actions.

    Your bargaining team finds these developments to be regrettable, although unfortunately not altogether surprising. The truth is, however, that the nature of these Employer actions  is a measure of the effectiveness and strength of our collective actions.

    In the end, it is only by continuing to stand and act together that we will be able to  conclude these negotiations successfully.

    Joe Dolecki
    BUFA President and Chief Negotiator



October 15, 2011
  • Open Letter from BUFA VP Dennis Oleson. Dennis Oleson, BUFA VP

    To all BUFA members from your Vice President Dennis Oleson

    Sat Oct 15,2011

    Pursuant to the e-mail I sent to the membership of BUFA yesterday evening I want to make sure that the following points are crystal clear to all BUFA members.

    1. In my opinion President Poff's actions in inviting members to teach their courses on Monday has violated the strike protocol which is a legal and binding document.
    2. Contrary to President Poff's assertion that there is no lockout it is also my contention that since the protocol does not allow members to carry out all their job related activities the protocol clearly establishes that there is in effect a lockout, or at least a partial lockout, of BUFA members.

    Look carefully at the protocol and the back to work "invitation" from President Poff.

    BUFA is in consultation with legal advisors considering the most appropriate, effective and expeditious action to take regarding the violation of the protocol.

    In solidarity and a request to everyone to please respect the BUFA picket lines on Monday morning. 

    Dennis



  • Thanks extended to long serving BUFA webmaster. BUFA Executive

    After many years service as BUFA webmaster, including six years since retiring in 2005, Gerry Neufeld has announced he is stepping down to allow a current BUFA member to serve as webmaster. BUFA would like to extend warm thanks to Gerry for his much appreciated service, thank him for his good wishes for the procurement of a fair and equitable agreement, and wish him the full enjoyment of his retirement now that we will not be leaning on him as much.

    Best wishes Gerry and Thanks.

    BUFA Executive



  • Negotiations Update. BUFA Bargaining Team

    On Friday, the second Conciliation session began at 10:00 am, before Mr. Dennis Harrison of Manitoba Conciliation Services.

    In the previous session, held on Wednesday, Mr. Harrison had raised the matter of ‘trust’ between the Employer and BUFA, observing that, in his experience, trust was essential to the success of the negotiation process. BUFA decided to canvass this matter on Friday.

    Accordingly, BUFA requested that the Employer’s bargaining team be brought in to discuss, in the presence of the Conciliator, the trust issues that had arisen during these negotiations. BUFA acknowledged the existence of these issues, observing that the Employer’s actions since Tuesday’s marathon bargaining session had widened the ‘trust gap’ between the Parties.

    In particular, BUFA pointed to the communication from the Employer, issued in the early morning of October 12, advising that classes would resume on Monday, Barb Smith’s invitation to BUFA members to register with her office if they intended to cross the picket line and go back to work, and the President’s comments to the media earlier in the day regarding our students, which many construed as implying the imposition of penalties, academic or otherwise, upon those students who chose to honour our picket line by not going to any classes that may running. 

    As well, BUFA related a number of incidents, reported by BUFA members, of Employer intimidation involving non-tenured and sessional members, and advised that BUFA’s legal counsel had been instructed to file an omnibus complaint to the Manitoba Labour Relations Board in respect of these matters.

    BUFA then proposed three measures which the Employer must take in order to begin the process of establishing the trust necessary to move these negotiations forward. 

    First, BUFA proposed that a Memorandum of Understanding be signed enjoining the Parties from penalizing students, academically or otherwise, for choosing to cross or to respect BUFA’s picket lines and consequently to attend or not to attend any classes, if any, that may be running. BUFA stated that the current dispute was between BUFA and the Employer, and that the clear intention of the MOU was to ‘take students out of this dispute’. Later in the day, the Employer refused to sign this MOU.

    Secondly, BUFA reviewed the contents of the Strike Action Protocol, signed by the Parties on October 12 (and posted on the BUFA Website).  After the Chief Negotiator for the Employer, Winnipeg Lawyer Grant Mitchell, had confirmed that this protocol was legally binding on the Parties, BUFA drew attention to the second protocol item at page 2 of the document. 

    According to its terms, “Members shall have access to their regular parking, but not to mail services, office space, computers or research on campus, during the course of any job action ...”. In other words, BUFA and the Employer have actually agreed to the institution of a ‘partial’ lock-out of BUFA Members as part of the strike protocol.

    This means that should members choose to resume teaching classes, they would not be permitted: into their offices; to receive mail; to have access to their computers; or conduct any research activities. They would be permitted to park their car, go into the classroom, and leave.

    BUFA then noted that no reference to this protocol item, let alone it’s meaning, was made in either the President’s communication or Barb Smith’s invitation. The omission of such reference meant that the information BUFA members received from the Employer regarding the conditions of work, should any choose to cross the picket line, was (to say the least) significantly deficient.

    To remedy this deficiency, and to ensure that choices would be fully informed, BUFA advised the Employer that we required the Employer to send a ‘corrective’ message to the community, copied to all recipients of its October 12 communication (including the media), clearly explaining the meaning and implications of this agreed upon partial lock-out. BUFA gave the Employer one hour to complete this task.

    Later in the day, the Employer refused to do this, stating that while they would honour the terms of the protocol, they would advise any member who chose to cross the picket line of the protocol’s existence and meaning at the time of crossing.

    Finally, BUFA expressed concerns about the enforcement of this agreed upon partial lockout. In the normal course of events, BUFA noted, the union has as one of its duties the monitoring and, through the grievance procedure, the enforcement of all agreements fashioned between the Parties. However, during job action, this duty becomes difficult and,  in the case of the partial lockout protocol, impossible to fulfill.

    To ensure enforcement, BUFA advised that we required the Employer to supply a witnessed Affidavit, sworn by the President, certifying that the appropriate steps (as outlined in the Affidavit) had been taken to ensure that the agreed-upon partial lockout was realized. BUFA gave a deadline for the submission of this document to BUFA as 8:00 am, Monday Morning.

    Later in the day, the Employer refused once again, expressing instead its expectation that the parameters of the partial lockout would be respected by any returning members.

    Subsequent to this refusal, Ms. Smith sent out another invitation to BUFA members to resume normal work activity on Monday. Once again, there was no mention of this protocol item – whose partial lock out provision obviously precludes the conduct ‘normal’ work activity.

    BUFA had stated to the Employer that these three requirements, were ‘conditions precedent’ for any resolution of the trust issue, and hence for the continuation of meaningful negotiating efforts. The Employer’s refusal to meet these requirements, BUFA concluded, could only be interpreted as evidence of the Employer’s lack of interest in arriving at a tentative agreement that day, the expressed desire of BUFA negotiators. It was at this point that negotiations broke down.

    Derek Brown, Joe Dolecki, Elisabeth MacDonald-Murray, Bill Paton, David Winter

    BUFA Bargaining Team




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