Bargaining Update: The Best Laid Plans...
After initially meeting in April and exchanging proposals, the two bargaining teams took some time in May to consider, cost and prepare questions and counter-proposals. It was agreed that June would be a concentrated period of bargaining with weekly meetings to create some real momentum towards a negotiated agreement.
However, on June 6, the University received notification from the Labour Relations Board (LRB) that TSSU had applied for certification to include 14 Graduate Student Facilitators working in the Student Learning Commons in the TSSU bargaining unit. While it is common practice for unions to certify new groups of employees during the term of a collective agreement, it is highly unusual to attempt this once bargaining has started and proposals have been exchanged. The introduction of new proposals after the initial exchange without mutual agreement is considered irregular and can have serious repercussions on the bargaining process. Nonetheless, the University recognizes and supports the right of workers in BC to unionize, and we therefore allowed the variance without an objection.
In order to consider each of TSSU’s original proposals, presented in a 79-page document detailing several hundred individual “asks”, in appropriate depth, the University’s bargaining committee must assess each proposal based on cost, operational viability and its alignment to the University’s principle of supporting our students, both financially through employment opportunities and with meaningful teaching experience for our future academics. With the additional tasks of defining the current terms of employment for Graduate Facilitators and creating proposals to integrate them into the current Collective Agreement, it was necessary to defer one June bargaining meeting and reassign the time allocated to another for a meeting with the TSSU executive to discuss the new certification.
In a previous bulletin, we described the PSEC mandate and explained that any bargaining proposal that increases the total cost of a collective agreement must be costed out of the PSEC funding envelope. While the parties have not negotiated their monetary proposals yet (this is typically done once the parties have negotiated non monetary items), we have informed the TSSU that a significant number of their proposals tabled as non-monetary have financial impact on the collective agreement. In the interest of total transparency, the University has urged the TSSU to manage the expectations of their executive and membership to ensure that they are fully aware of the limitations imposed by the PSEC mandate.
While some of the expectations and actions of the TSSU bargaining team are not considered appropriate in terms of good bargaining processes and protocol, we continue to look for opportunities to be creative at the table, demonstrating that the University’s aim is a negotiated agreement that supports the success of our students.