Under the provisions of the Collective Agreement, if a negotiated agreement has not been reached within six weeks of the receipt by the University of official notification of the operating grant allocated to it, the matters in dispute shall be submitted to binding arbitration. This type of arbitration, which is designed to resolve a bargaining impasse, is known as “interest arbitration”, as opposed to rights or grievance arbitrations which resolve disputes about the interpretation or application of the Collective Agreement.
The University received official notification of its operating grant on Friday, June 18th. By the end of June, it was clear to both parties that agreement was not going to be reached within the relevant six week time frame. While it is open to the parties jointly to agree to defer arbitration and continue bargaining, it was clear to the Faculty Association that achieving an agreement at the bargaining table would be a long drawn-out process and that further bargaining would most likely still lead to an impasse. Consequently, the Association decided not to request an extension to the deadline.
The parties did, however, meet one last time in early July with the assistance of a mediator in one last attempt to see if the parties could reach agreement before the deadline, or at least to determine whether the parties were close enough that continued bargaining might be worthwhile. The results of that mediated discussion confirmed, at least for the Faculty Association, that the parties are not close to settlement and that continued bargaining would prove to be unproductive.
Consequently on July 30, 2010, the Association wrote to the University to start the interest arbitration process. Although at one time using interest arbitration to conclude collective bargaining was a common occurrence at UBC it has been some years since the parties have gone that route so some discussion with the University is necessary to work out certain technical questions, like the nature of the arbitration panel. Discussions along those lines have already commenced.