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October 15, 2011
  • 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



October 14, 2011
  • Strike Blog. James Forsythe, Chair, Strike Action Committee

    After six months of opportunity real bargaining began Tuesday. It is a little early in the bargaining process to go to binding arbitration. That usually happens after bargaining is exhausted. Your negotiating team has repeatedly asked to see a govít directive regarding the 0 0 2% wage guidelines. If it exists why can they not produce it? On the non-monetary issues the current offer from the Administration would give Deans and the President a veto power over what constitutes valid research and negate the principle of peer review. If this offer from Dr. Poff is accepted then both she and/or your Dean could simply declare the quality or the quantity of your research unsatisfactory regardless of peer review.

    There will be no academic implications to students from striking BUFA members whether the students cross the line on Monday or not. We abhor the position that students have been placed in by the actions of the Brandon University Administration.

    Signed,

    James Forsythe

    Chair Strike Action Committee



  • Paychecks next week.

    Hi Everyone,

    In response to some questions we have been receiving, I have the following information to share.

    1. Strike Paychecks will be issued during your first picket sign in on Tuesday
    2. Benefits are being paid by BUFA (see www.bufa.org for details)
    3. Have a good Weekend

      BUFA Strike Headquarters



  • BUFA Webmaster Resigns. Gerald Neufeld

    Hi Everyone,

    As BUFA webmaster, I received this message from Jim Forsythe this evening.

    Please post.

    The current system of web posting is under pressure to improve by members of both the rank and file and the executive of BUFA. In my opinion the current method of posting current, immediate and targeted communications is not sufficient to our needs.

    I would welcome your suggestions.

    It is only fair to make you aware that criticism of the status quo has been consistent and constant in the opening days of this job action and that my efforts at this end to seek a solution have so far proved fruitless.

    Jim

    I created the BUFA web site at the time of the original BUFA strike in the 1990s and served as BUFA webmaster through both previous strikes even though I have retired from the university and have not been a BUFA member since 2005. However, it seems as though my efforts during this strike have been unsatisfactory and so I am resigning from the unpaid position as BUFA webmaster.

    Gerald Neufeld

    PS: Hope you reach a satisfactory settlement soon.



  • Straight talk on salaries. BUFA Bargaining Team

    A lot of people are confused by the University’s claim that BUFA’s proposals would amount to an increase in salaries and benefits in the order of 37% over the life of the contract. Let’s try to provide some clarity. First, as presented, their claim implies that this somehow represents the increase to an individual BUFA member’s compensation package. They know this is not true, but they don’t make this clear. For example, the request to fund sabbatical replacements is counted in BU’s costing of the increase to the ‘salary costs’ to the University, even though no existing faculty members derive any benefit, direct or indirect, to their salaries or benefits. Second, a number of things are included in the total package of proposals that have nothing to do with members’ compensation. For example, our Professional Development Allowance cannot be used on personal items. It is reserved for things like research equipment and materials, skills training, and travel to conferences to present our research. We hope they are not implying that increasing the funds that help us do our jobs better is somehow unreasonable. Third, improvements to our non-salary benefits are intended to bring us up to the standards of other universities, with whom we compete for new hires.

    So what kind of compensation increase is BUFA really asking for. BUFA’s position has changed as we’ve made concessions at the table in an attempt to reach agreement at some middle ground. However, let’s use our now out-of-date offer on which the Administration based its 37% claim. Our salary proposal at that time was percent increases of 3.9, 4.25, and 4.4 over the three years (let’s assume for simplicity that inflation is low and leave out the “or COLA+1”). Let’s also assume that the values of increments are increased by these percent amounts as well, but that increments themselves are not part of the increases we seek, since both parties included existing increments in their proposals. Since the percent increases are cumulative, the actual increase, based on scale increases to salaries and increments (but not the value of increments themselves), in a member’s salary over the life of the contract would be approximately 12-14%, depending on the member’s current rank. The University wants to include increments in their costing of the salary package. This is misleading for two reasons. First, many faculty members are at the ceilings of their ranks, and therefore do not receive increments anyway. Second, and of much greater financial implication, there will be retirements and new hires each year. Typically, retirements relieve the University of the costs of high-salaried members, and hires replace these with new members in low ranks and low starting salaries. Generally, the costs of increments are offset by the total salary savings of retirements versus new hires. This makes the bold assumption that retirees will indeed be replaced with new hires. If not, the savings are greater.

    Next, let’s account for the change in pension contributions. Under BUFA’s proposal, both the University and BUFA members would increase the pension contribution from 7.5% to 8% of members’ salaries. This would add a very small amount to the total cost of ‘salaries and benefits’ the University would have bear, but would result in a softening of the take-home portion of BUFA members’ salary increases. Instead of 12-14% increases, BUFA members would experience increases of approximately 11.5-13.5% in take-home pay over the life of the contract. We note that while both parties are asking to increase the contributions we make to the pension plan, there is no improvement to the terms of the plan. Pension benefits remain unchanged.

    Naturally, these nominal increases in BUFA members’ salaries do not account for any effects of inflation. The University will counter, despite the argument made above, that increments should be included in the costing of salary changes. Even if that were included, under no possible variation on BUFA’s proposals would any member experience an increase in compensation in the order of 37%. Finally, we note that according to figures published by the Canadian Association of University Teachers, average salaries at all professorial ranks at Brandon University are at least $10,000 below national averages in those ranks.

    Derek Brown, Joe Dolecki, Elizabeth Macdonald-Murray, Bill Paton, David Winter

    BUFA Bargaining Team,



  • Letter to Provincial Labour Minister from UWFA. Pauline Pearson, President, University of Winnipeg Faculty Association

    Provincial Labour Minister
    Jennifer Howard
    317 Legislative Building
    450 Broadway
    Winnipeg, MB R3C 0V8

    As President of the University of Winnipeg Faculty association, I want to thank you for your participation in the Forum on Post-Secondary Education on September 20th at the Caboto Center. I enjoyed hearing all of the candidates speak, but your responses firmed up my decision to vote for you as the candidate in my riding.

    I write to remind you of a promise that you made at that meeting and to urge you to keep that promise. When asked whether or not you would support back-to-work legislation, you said that you respect the collective bargaining process and the right to strike.

    My colleagues at Brandon University are currently on strike and today in the Winnipeg Free Press Deveryn Ross asked you to legislate the faculty back to work. A strike is always difficult and stressful for everyone involved and I am sure that my colleagues have not made this decision lightly. I played an active role in the preparations for job action by the University of Winnipeg Faculty Association in the spring; I can assure you that no one is more concerned with the well-being of students than the faculty. When a positive resolution cannot be reached at the table within a reasonable time a strike is sometimes necessary to achieve a fair and equitable resolution. The Brandon Faculty Association has been actively trying to resolve the situation, and continues express and continue to demonstrate a willingness to meet with the employer. Please respect the integrity of the collective bargaining process, permit the parties to work through the steps of bargaining to new collective agreement, and refrain from enacting back-to-work legislation.

    In solidarity,
    Pauline Pearson
    President, University of Winnipeg Faculty Association



October 13, 2011
  • Crossing Picket Lines. Dennis Oleson, Vice President of BUFA

    To members of BUFA, from Dennis Oleson; Vice President of BUFA October 13, 2011.

    A Memorandum and Job Action Protocol was signed by the Chairpersons of the bargaining teams for both the Brandon University Faculty Association, Joe Dolecki, and the Brandon University, Grant Mitchell, on Oct.12, 2011. By way of this protocol, which can be read on the BUFA website (BUFA.org) the parties have agreed that certain conditions will be in force during the period of the job action. The second item on the list states “Members shall have access to their regular parking lot, but NOT to mail services, office space, computers or research on campus, during the course of any job action unless specified below.” Access to “mail services, office space, computers or research on campus” is not specified again anywhere in the protocol document.

    Also on October 12, 2011, and it would seem within hours of the signing of the protocol, Dr. Poff, the President of Brandon University, and Ms. Smith, the Director of Human Resources, have communicated to the members of BUfA that they are free to return to teach their classes starting Monday. This implies that members who cross the picket lines will have access to office space, their research and their computers on campus - how else are they going to teach their courses. These elements are considered by many to be tools for the teaching process.

    For emphasis I will repeat that the protocol was signed on 12 October and e-mails to faculty were sent on 12 October. It certainly seems that the signature of the employer's chief negotiator on a document means little or nothing to the President. Violating the protocol within hours, if not minutes, of signing the protocol does not appear to be a step in the right direction for getting agreement to the issues that are separating the two parties. Such action seems neither practical nor inspired by the ethical principles to which Brandon University is committed. At least I have always believed Brandon University was so committed.

    To any members who might be thinking of taking up the president's offer to continue seamless arrival of pay checks for crossing the legal picket lines I would suggest that you think seriously about doing so and consider the above. Your UNION and your EMPLOYER have signed, one assumes in good faith, the protocol governing activities during the period of job action. Members of both parties should adhere to the wording and the spirit of that protocol. All job related activities of members of the bargaining unit should cease for the duration of the job action, except those allowed by the protocol. At the cessation of the job action a back to work protocol will be signed which I'm sure will contain provisions to allow the students to complete the work of the term and progress towards their end goal in a reasonable and expeditious fashion.

    During periods of job action students are inconvenienced, a fact that I am sure all faculty members sincerely regret. However as I indicated above the Brandon University Faculty Association and you, its members, will do everything that is necessary, after obtaining a reasonable contract with the employer, to ensure that any negative impacts on the students are alleviated to the greatest degree possible. Returning to do teaching-but note from above not research-and returning to teach without access to your office or computer will not bear fruit but will breed discontent in my opinion.

    I urge all members of the faculty Association to totally reject any overtures by the administration of Brandon University to return to classes prior to our obtaining a reasonable contract with the Employer. Some may believe that a return to teaching is in the best interests of the students but that may very well not be the case since many, and maybe most, students will not cross the picket lines. President Poff’s communications have omitted to mention a fact of which she is, I am sure, aware. That fact is that students have a right to decide not to cross the picket lines and that Brandon University has a commitment to all students including those who exercise their right not to cross the picket lines. One student said to me that any professor that sets up classes for students who cross the lines to attend will surely create dissention among the students in the class. I think the student’s point should be seriously considered by all of us.

    The best way to deal with the student problems that arise because of the strike is for the Employer and us (BUFA) to settle the dispute to the mutual satisfaction/dissatisfaction of both parties as quickly as possible and to construct a back to work agreement that addresses the educational needs of the students.

    As a member of BUFA you, like anyone else, do have the right to cross the picket lines. It appears that is what the President wants you to do. Ask yourself why the President wants you to break with the BUFA position. If you have trouble answering your own question read the two missives from October 12th in their entirety. Member solidarity will lead to a more rapid and faculty favorable settlement of the dispute than will member dissention. I believe the President knows this.

    I urge you not to cross.

    With solidarity and respect.

    Dennis



  • Response to Employer's request to return to work.

    Chair of BUFA Strike Action Committee

    October 13, 2011

    Response to Employer’s request to return to work.

    Yesterday I received an email over Barb Smith’s signature inviting me to return to my teaching duties on Monday.

    While it is often counterproductive to read tone and intention into written language, as a theatre professor and actor for nearly forty years I have made my living deducing intentions and motivations from the written word.

    The character (using the term in its theatrical context) that composed this email can be said to be operating on certain assumptions and traits:

    She is a false temptress when she offers normal pay and benefits even though BUFA covers benefits and strike pay. Our guilt regarding our students is appealed to by invoking the ‘good of the students’ as if she holds a monopoly on goodness. Hubris comes across with the assumption that I will return to work because she has simply asked me to. She wants me to think she is a wise sage or a benevolent ruler.

    She actually exhibits more the shadow side of those archetypes: not the ruler but the tyrant, not the sage but the ideologue who knows what is best for me.

    I may not know what every single issue is in this strike. I may not know the specific cause of talks breaking down the other night. But I am sure that I do not want to go back to work without a contract. I do not want to destroy the union and the collective agreement that has governed and protected me since I started at BU in 1990.

    The conciliator that Dr. Poff told the media BUFA didn’t want arrived yesterday and began work not without support but simply unannounced. Joe met with him yesterday and the negotiating team is fully participating in the process. A conciliator does not have the mandate to settle problems. He is a messenger between the parties that is all. It is a step in the process.

    On Monday Dr. Poff expects a minority of us to return to work. The idea that some students could continue their studies and others not or that a respectful working environment is created by turning colleagues against each other is not positive. It is not a negotiating tactic. It is at best misguided and at worst insulting.

    Our negotiating team is scheduled to return to the table with the conciliator at 10 am Friday morning. The room is booked until 5 and BUFA is willing to extend those hours if necessary. The students are behind us. They marched to the President’s office yesterday and have been walking with us on the picket line.

    In an effort to expedite communication members may access my twitter account. My twitter account is at Twitter.com slash Dramaprof.

    Unsigned

    October 13, 2011



October 12, 2011
  • Daily Report from Winnipeg Campus. Debra Dusome

    Hello Patrick,

    Here is our daily report.

    Winnipeg Campus -Psychiatric Nursing Program Picketers

    Jane Karpa - Full-time
    Betty Wedgewood - Full-time
    Fiona Smith - Full-time
    Pamela Carlyle - Full-time
    Felicia Lucec - Full-time
    Debra Dusome - Full-time

    Non-Winnipeg Campus - Brandon Faculty

    Linda Christian - Sessional - Arts & History
    Dick Henley - Full-time - BUNTEP
    Meir Serfaty - Full-time - Arts
    Alison Marshall - Full-time - Arts
    Alexa Okrainic - Full-time - Education - missed first day due to not knowing picket information (I did not have her contact information and she did not have mine)
    Carolyn Creed - Full-time - BUNTEP
    Shannon Fargey - Sessional - Geography
    Sheri-Lynn Skwarchuk - Adjunct Faculty

    Solidarity Supporters

    Marrissa Dudych - UWFA
    Pauline Pearson - UWFA
    Lisa Sinclair - U of W Faculty
    Andy Park - U of W Faculty
    Allan Mills - UWFA - (VP)
    Jen Clapy-Lemon (not sure of spelling) - U of W Faculty
    Sheri-Lynn Skwarchuk - U of W Faculty - Adjunct Faculty BU
    Paul Bots (not sure of spelling) - U of W Faculty
    Tracy Whalen - U of W Faculty
    Rob Anderson - U of W Faculty
    Peter Ives - U of W Faculty

    Tyler Blashko - UWSA - University of Winnipeg Student Association
    Lana Hastings - UWSA
    Lauren BOSC - UWSA
    Katie Haig-Anderson - UWSA

    Brian Dunn one of our sessionals will be picketing with us Monday and Tuesday next week.

    All our people have met their picketing obligations.

    Marg Synyshun a sessional who teaches one class with us will not cross our line. She wishes us luck but is unable to picket because of her other employment. she has not signed a union card..

    Dick Henley let CBC know he was available to speak on BUFA's behalf, however, no press appeared on the line today.

    One Brandon University 1st Year Psychiatric Nursing was very angry with us, cursed and used excessive profanity concerned about paying fees and being denied an opportunity to attend classes.

    I forwarded two letters of support from Pauline Pearson and I'm attaching pictures from the line. The painted banner is one U of W student's made to support their Faculty in the Spring.

    Have a good weekend and I hope talks continue. If the strike continues for an extended period of time our students will lose their placements in hospitals scheduled to start the end of November. This strike will create greater hardship on our students. Please keep this in mind.

    Debra Dusome




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