What Happens Now?

Categories: Arbitration, Bargaining Updates 2014

While the parties have agreed on many issues there are a number of issues still in dispute. On some of these issues the parties are likely to engage in further discussion that might lead to resolution, others will have to be decided by an Arbitrator. Please note that any items agreed to at the bargaining table will not be implemented until the interest arbitration is complete. This is the twenty-fourth in a series of blog posts to discuss both the matters that have been agreed and those that are still in dispute, as well as the arbitration process in general.

In the previous two rounds of bargaining, the parties continued to meet, even after the arbitration was scheduled, and in the 2010 round those meetings actually led to a settlement, which eliminated the need for an arbitration hearing. In this round the Association did suggest, in a phone conversation to the University, that we were prepared to meet further if they thought it would be fruitful but the University’s position seems to be that further meetings would be pointless. Thus, it looks like no further bargaining will take place. What happens now?

The Association and the University are preparing documents for the upcoming arbitration. On August 31, the parties will simultaneously exchange briefs outlining and defending our positions regarding the University’s ability to pay and our final positions on any other issues that are being taken to arbitration. The briefs that were submitted for the last arbitration can be found here (Faculty Association and University). The parties will then get an opportunity to respond to the other’s brief, in writing, by October 5. The reply submissions from the last arbitration can be found here (Faculty Association, University and University – Supplemental).

At the same time that the Association and the University exchange briefs and replies, these documents will also be given to the Arbitration Board. The Board comprises three members, one each chosen by the parties, and a chair who is chosen jointly by the parties. UBC proposed Colin Taylor as the Chair (again) and we agreed. Colin Taylor is a highly experienced and respected arbitrator with no discernible pro-union or pro-management proclivities. UBCFA has chosen Michael Conlin, the Executive Director of CUFA-BC, as its appointee. UBC has chosen Judith Osborne, the VP (legal) at Simon Fraser University. The appointees to the Board are not advocates for the parties. That’s what legal counsel is for. They are chosen for their experience and understanding of the issues at play. Once the hearings have been held (October 21-23), the Board will conduct discussions in private and render an award. The Board will use its best efforts to reach a unanimous award but failing that, a majority award.

Some members will remember that in the last round the parties mutually agreed to a single arbitrator, rather than the usual three member panel. That was the first time we had done so in an interest arbitration, although it is common in grievance arbitrations. We were not unhappy with the single arbitrator experiment but saw no real advantage to it over the traditional three-person panel approach, to which we have returned.

UBCFA’s counsel has also contracted with accounting firm PwC to conduct research and produce a document pertaining to the University’s ability to pay an award greater than it offered in bargaining. The University has indicated to us that, unlike the last arbitration, it does not intend to call an independent accounting firm to make its case.

In determining a salary award, the arbitration panel has to evaluate two issues. First, whether the cost of an award will “preserve a reasonable balance between the salary of members of the bargaining unit and other expenditures.” In the two most recent arbitrations, the University was found to have the ability to pay more than they were offering faculty. Second, once the Board is satisfied that the University has the ability to pay an award, it must consider both wage and price inflation, retention issues, and salaries and benefits at other Canadian universities of comparable academic quality and size.

If the last two arbitrations are anything to go by the University will attempt to prove that any award that costs more than the university’s offer would disrupt the reasonable balance between the salary of members of the bargaining unit and other expenditures. The Association will argue that the University can safely pay an award greater than offered and still maintain the reasonable balance. After the hearings the Board will render its award (usually several months after the hearings), and we will be done with this round of bargaining.

Next up on the blog: Changes in Composition of the Bargaining Unit

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