On February 1 the parties met for the first time to exchange proposals and provide a general overview of the problems the proposals are intended to solve or the outcomes the proposals are intended to achieve. Members who have not previously been involved in collective bargaining may be surprised at the general and nonspecific nature of many of the proposals made by each side. This is fairly typical. As bargaining proceeds the parties will pass across more specific proposals in contract language, but before we do that we will jointly be involved in a process of trying to understand exactly where the other party’s interests lie, and how they mesh with our own interests.
On compensation, the university is proposing a 0% increase over two years and eliminating the 1% productivity bonus for fund raising. Although members may see these proposals as provocative the university is simply signaling its desire to hold down salary costs. We, on the other hand, have signaled that we intend to protect faculty salaries and keep salaries at UBC competitive with salaries at other universities.
The university has also made a number of other proposals that they describe as “cost neutral”. In other words, proposals that can only increase one member’s salary by reducing someone else’s salary. For example, they proposed introducing a market adjustment fund for Nursing provided the fund is cost neutral; adding an additional rank to the instructor classification, provided the extra rank is cost neutral, and merging the existing Merit and PSA pools into one new pool. These proposals are sufficiently general that until we have had more discussion, and see specific contract language, there is no point in speculating on the university’s intentions.
Similarly, with respect to their proposals on tenure and promotion, the proposals are sufficiently general that we won’t speculate on what the university intends until more specific proposals are passed across the table, although we think it is fair to say that UBC’s proposals in these areas signaled a desire to increase administrative flexibility and to allow the University to raise standards, while ours signaled a desire to improve the transparency, accountability and collegiality of the existing processes.
Again, the proposals tabled at yesterday’s meeting are only the opening position of the parties, and much more will be forthcoming in terms of clarity and specific language, and an indication of priorities. However, the initial proposals do provide each party with a preliminary indication of the other’s objectives, and we will certainly be using the time between now and the next meeting to consider their proposals and to do the necessary research to formulate responses to their proposals. Undoubtedly the university will be engaged in a similar exercise.