BUFA

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November 09, 2011
  • Letter of Support. Blair Gilmore

    Commentary from an Observer

    As a keen observer of the unfolding story of Brandon University’s (BU) job action over the past few months, I wanted to comment on some key issues apropos to the current impasse between labour and management.

    Not withstanding the fact that the administration from the beginning has demanded the strike be summarily ended through binding arbitration; bloggers, frustrated parents and distraught students have joined in the clarion call for settlement through arbitration. This argument is a non-starter due to the fact that in 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that collective bargaining is a protected right with reference to the ‘freedom of association’ clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Government can pass legislation designating workers as ‘essential’ and strip their rights to bargain and strike only if it’s demonstrated that it’s for the good of the country. Try as you might, you’re not going to come up with a convincing argument for declaring university professors as an essential service hence it is their right to continue the bargaining process. To those crying for arbitration, I ask, what other rights do you feel like throwing under the bus for the sake of expediency?

    Keeping on the theme of arbitration, why has the administration from the beginning of the strike offered it as their main solution? Paraphrasing Derek Brown (one of BUFA’s lead negotiators), if an employer doesn’t want to bargain with the workers, they can ask for arbitration. Every time a contract comes up after that, they can just keep going the arbitration route. Therefore, the employer has for all intents and purposes stripped the workers of their Charter right to collective bargaining. There are a few social/political models that end in ‘ism’ that work that way. Why would any group of workers be motivated to go down that

    path?

    Speaking of motivations, those haven’t been discussed in the forums and I feel some context should shed some light on how this situation came about. The faculty has a vested interest in the overall good of the staff (including the other unions) at the university, the students and the city. After this incident is over, they still have to all work together for themselves, their students and their home community. Most of the faculty have deep roots and ties to the university and the area. For example, the lead BUFA negotiator, Joe Dolecki, has worked there 30+ years and has a daughter attending the university. In contrast, on the administration’s side, there are two main protagonists. Deborah Poff, the BU president, did her schooling in Ontario and was brought in from UNBC for a five year term. According to two open letters from the BU team that hired her, they are deeply regretting their hiring decision considering she was brought in for ‘the restoration of collegial relations’. Instead of negotiating in the usual collegial manner, she hired a consultant who without consulting the faculty, re-worded most of the old contract for debate. Then, contrary to the usual BU negotiating pattern, she hired Grant Mitchell, a Winnipeg lawyer, to be the lead negotiator for administration. Mr Mitchell is a member of the Canadian Association of Counsel to Employers, an organization that advises employers on how to deal with their workers. He has negotiated for the administrations of the U of M and U of W and has a reputation of being tough on unions. So of these two sides, who do you say has more altruistic reasons to fight for a fair and equitable settlement versus who just cares about furthering their career? Who has more of a personal stake in this dispute and who is likely going to move on to greener pastures after stirring up the pot?

    Finally, to add my perspective as a parent of a child that went through the same situation with regards to Vancouver Island University and their long strike this past spring. I won’t deny that there wasn’t some consternation and some scrabbling to sort his life out but the strike came to a conclusion and my son was offered a tuition refund or a term extension to finish off his year. He’s going to restart his studies in January so it wasn’t the end of the world and things will work out. Especially at this time of the year with poppies on our chests, maybe we could remember some of the previous ‘inconveniences’ people went through so that we could live in a fair and just society.

    Blair Gilmore



  • Letter of Support. Jurjen van der Sluijs

    Received on the [email protected] account Wed, Nov 9, 2011 at 8:34 PM

    Good evening dear BUFA members,

    I am writing you to express my full support of your stance to continue the negotiation with the BU admin without going to arbitration.

    Although the strike is certainly an inconvenience for me, I believe that what you stand for (workers’ rights) is much more important than a mere delay in my class schedule. It is my opinion that all students should realize that as soon as they have completed their degree they will be in your shoes fighting for their rights, and I find it very contradicting that some students on this campus underestimate the current employer-employee dynamics and future contractual consequences.

    Although the pressures of the the online community that is anti-union and in favour of arbitration appears to grow (i.e. eBrandon, online newspapers), I would like to note that the majority of students still fully support you. Many of them realize that you are “not in it for the money”, but that you are truly fighting for a better BU.

    Keep up the good negotiations. Donít give in into arbitration.

    Jurjen van der Sluijs
    4th Yr. BSc. Hon. Geography



  • Letter of Support. Cam Morrill (President) and Linda Guse (Executive Director), University of Manitoba Faculty Association

    UMFA has sent another $2500  in support of our BUFA colleagues and their fight for fair compensation and reasonable working conditions.  We applaud your strength and support your collective efforts to get the university administration to negotiate a new collective  agreement.

    In Solidarity,
    Cam Morrill
    President

    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



November 08, 2011
  • BUFA Reaffirms Commitment to Free Collective Bargaining.


    The Brandon University Faculty Association (BUFA) announced late this afternoon that BUFA will remain committed to the collective bargaining process and will not agree to submitting the current dispute with Brandon University to arbitration.

    The decision, taken at a special meeting of the BUFA Executive earlier today, was unanimous and was conveyed to the Provincial Minister of Labour and Immigration, the Hon. Jennifer Howard, by letter.

    In commenting on this development, BUFA Secretary and member of the bargaining team Bill Paton said, “We have extended an open invitation to resume talks, and we are confident that with the appropriate amount of resolve on the part of both parties, we can achieve an agreement expeditiously.”

    The BUFA strike, which is in its twenty-eighth day, continues.

    For further information contact:
    Bill Paton, BUFA Secretary (727-1000)
    Joe Dolecki, BUFA President and Chief Negotiator (727-9749)

  • A reply to ‘Arbitration and Collective Bargaining’. BUFA Bargaining Team

    The core thesis of the Employer’s November 7 letter ‘Arbitration and Collective Bargaining’ is that arbitration is preferable to strike/lockout on grounds that the former utilizes ‘fairness and reasonableness’ while the latter is merely ‘about power’. While BUFA strongly prefers settlements bargained at the table, as opposed to those imposed by arbitration, we also believe that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with strikes and lockouts, and nothing intrinsically wrong with arbitrations. The relevant question is what is appropriate in a general or particular case.

    As the Employer mentions, negotiations involving police officers, firefighters, paramedics, teachers and others do not contain the option of strikes or lockouts and instead must defer to arbitration when an impasse is reached. The well-known reason is because they have been deemed essential services, which means that these industries do not ever have the option of selecting strike/lockout over arbitration. By contrast the Employer believes that they simply ‘accept arbitration as the best way to decide their new contracts’. The fallacy is straightforward: ‘choosing’ the only option available is not evidence for it being ‘the best’ option.

    Teachers in the Brandon School Division enjoy one of the poorest benefits packages of teachers across the country. In recent years, their bargaining has been delayed for so long that their 2007-10 collective agreement was only ratified one month before it expired. It is hard to believe that our teachers see arbitration as ‘the best’ option, and we would be surprised if police officers, firefighters and paramedics felt differently.

    Additional concerns about removing the strike/lockout option arise from a brief glance at recent settlements procured off the negotiating table. Recently, through arbitration Air Canada’s flight attendants were handed their Employer’s last offer, with no compromise on any of the terms, an offer that was rejected by 65% of the membership in the ratification vote that occurred prior to arbitration being imposed. The Canadian Postal Workers were given a wage settlement by the Federal Government that was less than their Employer’s last offer. It is not difficult to take this as evidence against ‘fairness and reasonableness’.

    Perhaps most importantly, in our case the Employer to this point has not been fair and reasonable. They have consistently defended their financial position by appeal to a Provincial mandate and to a demand for parallels with the University of Manitoba and Winnipeg settlements. Throughout the mediation process the Mediator impressed these claims upon BUFA as cornerstones of the Employer’s position, claims that have now been refuted by Premier Selinger. He has stated that a Provincial mandate has never existed, and that the suggested wage imposition should not be expected given the 5% annual grant increase. The latter is an implicit recognition of the fact that our current negotiations are not occurring in the same context as did those of the other Provincial Universities.

    Further, it now seems likely that the Employer has favoured arbitration from the outset. Their declared strategy of deferring monetary discussions until all language issues have been resolved, and then burying BUFA in over eighty pages of language proposals, led to monetary matters and BUFA’s initiatives being barely discussed before the eve of the strike, when the Employer proposed arbitration.  The evidence now before us indicates that, since that time, there was still plenty of room to continue negotiating.  Their press at that time for arbitration had nothing to do with having reached an impasse.

    The option to strike/lockout helps ensure that both parties take negotiating seriously. In our case, it is not that, as the Employer suggests, we want the ‘power’ of strikes over the ‘reason’ of arbitration – categorizations BUFA finds regrettable –, it is that we now have ample evidence for how the Employer would behave within arbitration, and ‘fairness and reasonableness’ should not be expected.

    BUFA Bargaining Team

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



  • An Open Letter from BUFA to Students and Their Families. BUFA Media Team

    The Brandon University Faculty Association regrets deeply that a negotiated settlement to the labour dispute at Brandon University has not yet been achieved. BUFA has bargained diligently toward a fair settlement that will serve the interests of the students of this institution, now and long into the future.

    We realize the stress the strike is creating among students, their families, and the community. We receive messages from students and we live in the community – a community we are committed to for our 30+ year careers. We are neighbours and friends. It is very frustrating to be so full of energy and ideas but not be able to share them in the classroom. Instead we walk around the edge of campus each day disconnected from teaching, research, and the students and staff we all know so well.

    Some have expressed concern at BUFA’s resistance to submit to arbitration at this time. BUFA has not taken this position lightly. Arbitration represents a failure of negotiation. Neither party will have agreed to whatever decision is imposed. This raises problems of commitment to the outcome, and the likelihood that the still unresolved, underlying issue(s) will result in further failures of collective bargaining in the future. More generally, sending a wide range of issues to arbitration sets a precedent of removing the incentive for the Employer to negotiate, instead simply pressing for arbitration in every round of bargaining with every union on campus. Our right to free collective bargaining would be seriously compromised. Arbitration is an alternative to collective bargaining, not a part of it.

    This dispute has been about many things. Unfortunately, the President of Brandon University has claimed that “the core of this dispute is about money.” We beg to differ. From the outset, for BUFA members, this struggle has been to preserve the integrity of the collegial working environment which defines academia. The Employer sought to increase our teaching loads, which are already the highest in the country. They sought to erode peer evaluation and replace it with managerial decree. They resist basic job protection for long-serving sessional instructors. They refuse to offer a fair salary package, instead insisting that they must abide by a ‘provincial mandate’ that Premier Greg Selinger has now confirmed never existed.

    So far, this strike is the only tool that has yielded success in our resistance to many of the dramatic changes that would have compromised our ability to continue to excel as researchers and teachers. The learning environment of our students has been utmost in our minds as we work toward a settlement that is fair to BUFA members, and will ensure that excellent scholars will want to come to and remain at Brandon University. Our request for job protection for sessional instructors and for guaranteed leave replacements has one intention – to benefit students by preserving program integrity, allowing degrees to be completed on time, and ensuring that instruction is delivered by experienced teachers.

    While money has not been a driving factor in the strike, it remains an outstanding issue.  Although the gap between BUFA and the Employer since the strike began has always been small, BUFA continued to drop our salary requests before and during conciliation and mediation. The Employer has adjusted their salary position only twice since April, 2011, with virtually no movement (0.15%) on scale increases during mediation. They declared that “with no significant movement from the Union, the mediator decided that the mediation had reached an impasse.” The claim that mediation broke down because of a lack of movement from BUFA is simply untrue.

    Nevertheless, the Employer claims that our salary request is unaffordable, and would require “significant unbudgeted additional cuts to programs and positions.” Dr. Poff has now claimed in her November 7 communiqué that even the Employer’s own offer would involve “the permanent loss of faculty positions, fewer sessional offerings, and fewer choices for students” (our emphasis). If true, this would be grossly irresponsible. In fact, the evidence suggests this is not the case at all. Based on the University’s own budget estimates for 2011-12 (http://www2.brandonu.ca/admin/budget1112/), we suggest that BUFA’s proposal is affordable.

    The 2011-12 budget already proposes a 4.6% increase to the University’s Academic Salaries over last year. We note that this was budgeted before the 5.4% increase to the provincial grant was known. The revenue to fund this increase is considerably greater than what was originally anticipated. Given the provincial grant increases, three years from now, the University will be running a $3.4 million surplus. Permanent cuts seem unlikely. These calculations are based solely on the University’s own budget documents cited above, adjusted for the now known provincial grant increases. They exclude additional increases to tuition that have been approved by the province, and they exclude the very likely scenario of future reductions in the pension liability payments. For comparison, after budgeting for a $58,047 deficit in 2010-11, the University realized a surplus exceeding $2 million. At the May 14, 2011 Board of Governors' meeting a financial update for the 2010-11 budget year was presented, with the following statement:

    "At March 31, 2011 100% of the budget year is complete. For management reporting purposes, the operating accounts of the University have a surplus of $1,332,165; Ancillary Services has a surplus of $790,170." (http://www2.brandonu.ca/administration/governors/minutes/)

    There is no evidence that our financial position is unreasonable. But our present salary position is.  We teach more and earn less than faculty at comparable institutions across Canada.

    In sum, BUFA has been struggling for a negotiated settlement that is fair to members, which protects the collegial governance of the University, and ensures the best possible educational experience for our students. When we return, we expect to work hard to complete the term, and to restore BU’s reputation through excellence in research and teaching, and community building. We are committed to our University and to serving our community.

    -BUFA Media Team



  • Letter of Support. Gyula Csapó

    Dear Colleagues,

    Universities in North America - and worldwide - are forcibly "transformed" to business corporations by people who have overwhelming financial clout but very little understanding of the learning process, the arts, sciences, the real significance of the university for the future of both society and our planet. Education is not a business, students are not consumers, but they are our next generation. The business model harms this next generation through a deterioration of the learning environment and a corruption of the learning spirit. Disinterested, curiosity-driven search for both intellectual and emotional enrichment of human societies (currently are teethering on the brink of unthinkable loss of spirit) is in mortal danger by the irresponsibility of those no one elected to lead but who nonetheless lead by power. Essential academic freedom, reserach values are undermined by totally uninformed administrative decisions based on the bottom line, noting else. Quality ceased to matter, only mass and dollar revenues matter. In this atmmosphere of cynicism and rot, we here at the University of Saskatchewan root for you and carefully follow your brave stand up to coercion. We wish you a well-deserved success in Brandon, which we hope to show the way elsewhere. With warmest regards,

    Gyula Csapó
    Full Professor, Composition and Music Theory
    Department of Music
    University of Saskatchewan



  • Letter of Support. Norma MacMillan

    I just wanted you to know that many students continue to support BUFA during the current strike action. Yes... we would love to be back in class, but not at the expense of fair treatment of our faculty. Here is the content of an email I sent to Dr. Poff this evening. Although this email is from me, it echoes the sentiments of many students.

    "In your response to the letter from the Minister of Labour and Immigration you made mention of the possibility of returning to classes by Monday. As students, we know that this is not, in all likelihood, a reasonable probability. We (a number of students) want you to know that many of us are on to you. We know that you are setting things up so that when BUFA are unable to meet this unreasonalbe 'expectation', you will once again lay the blame for us not returning to class at the feet of BUFA. Frankly this is getting quite old and many of us are tired of it. Perhaps if you put as much effort into negotiating a fair collective agreement for BUFA as you have put into trying to make them appear at fault, we would have been back in class a long time ago. Its time to stop the insanity and start putting students first rather than trying to force us to choose sides. Enough is enough. Monday is day 26 of the strike. Its time to put an end to it."

    This is for your information, do with it as you wish. If you wish to post it on your web page, thats fine. If not, thats fine too. Your choice. I just wanted you to know you continue to have support.

    Norma MacMillan



  • Letter of Support. Carla Orosz

    I can not express how thankful I am that you are taking a stand for us all. You have my full support. Fight for our rights.

    Sincerely,
    Carla Orosz
    Assistant Professor
    Department of Drama
    University of Saskatchewan



  • Letter of Support. Dr. R. Anne Springer

    To my colleagues at the Brandon University,

    This e-mail is written to offer support for the quality environment you seek at the Brandon University. Continuity of program delivery ensures quality learning for the students your university serves! Sessional professors ought to receive the same level of respect for their contributions to educating students as any other professor in the academy! Valuing the contributions of sessional professors through equal pay for equal work represents a tangible demonstration of respect! Respectful environments impact upon job satisfaction/dissatisfaction and importantly retention and recruitment! Respectful, and therefore healthy workplace environments and relationships cannot be achieved without transparency and collegiality! We must make every effort to understand the full meaning of these important concepts and move beyond their rhetorical representations. Fair and equitable salaries are important for the reasons cited above. Thank you for the political action you undertake on behalf of all of us, many of whom have made the considered decision to enter the academy as a means of contributing to the society within which we are all engaged. You have my full support!

    Kindest Regards,

    Anne

    Dr. R. Anne Springer
    RN (SRNA) PhD MN BScN MSCN
    Assistant Professor
    College of Nursing, University of Saskatchewan
    Rm 309 - St. Andrew's College
    1121 College Drive,Saskatoon, SK,S7N 0W3

    Phone: (306) 966-4631 - Fax: (306) 966-1745
    e-mail: [email protected]
    http://www.usask.ca/nursing/people/details.php?details=springer_r_a




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