Negotiating for a new Collective Agreement began in earnest on February 14, when the Faculty Association proposals and the University proposals were exchanged.The Parties met six times in February and March, and have five additional dates set to continue negotiations in April and May. At this time each party has, with two exceptions, provided detailed explanations of what their objectives are and have produced proposed Collective Agreement language that they think will meet their objectives. With the exception of some housekeeping items, no proposals have yet been accepted nor withdrawn, but this is pretty standard at this stage of negotiations.
The two exceptions are a) articles pertaining to Librarians, and b) across-the-board (ATB) salary increases. A separate joint committee is examining the Collective Agreement provisions pertaining to the Library with the objective of making a joint recommendation to the two negotiating teams shortly. With respect to salary, the University has indicated that it will not be ready to table any across-the-board salary increase proposals until April. Accordingly we have not yet tabled any proposals of our own on this matter.
If bargaining does not finish by late June, there will be a summer hiatus and we will resume again sometime after the fall term begins. It is entirely possible that, once the money proposals are on the table, bargaining will move quickly towards a settlement by the end of June. There is no way to predict this at the moment, however.
At some point in the summer the University will receive its formal budget letter. Last year’s budget letter was dated July 8, 2011 and the 2010 letter was dated June 18, so there is considerable variation in when the letter is received. Under the terms of our Collective Agreement, if agreement has not been reached within six weeks of the budget letter the matters in dispute are submitted to arbitration. In practice what this means is that, if agreement is not reached by the end of June, the budget letter will probably arrive, and the six week period will probably expire, during the hiatus. Consequently if the Parties do not reach an agreement by late June, bargaining in the fall will resume once an arbitrator is named, and a date for arbitration set. This is exactly what occurred in the 2010-2012 round when the Parties resumed bargaining after the summer hiatus on November 9, 2010 having already agreed on Arbitrator Colin Taylor and having set February 21, 2011 as the date to begin arbitration hearings. As members will recall, the arbitration was cancelled after the Parties reached an agreement on November 19, 2010.
While at one time having an arbitrator adjudicate the issues in dispute was the predominant way of concluding negotiations between the UBCFA and UBC, the last few rounds of bargaining have been concluded without the need to go to arbitration. There is simply no way of knowing whether this trend will continue and consequently the Association has budgeted sufficient human and financial resources to have the agreement settled by binding arbitration, should that prove necessary. This would not, of course, be our first preference as it is always better for the two Parties to come to an agreement jointly.
In subsequent posts over the next several weeks, we will be outlining more comprehensively the issues we have taken to the bargaining table. To avoid email overload, we will not be sending these blog notices routinely, so be sure to check back to the blog on a regular interval.