Faculty seeks a "level playing field" with the administration
By Brendan Howe
Travelling down the road to unionization continues to be a trend of faculty members at Western despite administration's attempts to negotiate a new contract without the creation of a new union within the university.
The University of Western Ontario Faculty Association is in the process of getting professors at the university to sign certification cards in an effort towards a final goal of unionization. The association voted two and a half weeks ago to pursue a campaign of certification.
"Certification gives us an umbrella which guarantees a level playing field with the administration," said UWOFA President Andrew Osler. He added the association worked very hard at negotiating with administration since the winter but now must turn to the provisions of the Ontario labour law.
These provisions would require both sides to negotiate in a manner in which each other's positions are respected, Osler said.
Negotiations are currently suspended while the process to unionize the association takes place. VP-academic Greg Moran said certifying does not address the road to an outcome, it only addresses the process of the negotiations.
"The administration would be more than happy to discuss a non-unionized comprehensive agreement," he said.
Administration has been inviting all members of the faculty to attend a series of open meetings, Moran said. The first of these meetings attracted only six faculty members, a result he attributed to poor advertising.
Marjorie Ratcliffe, organizer of the certification campaign, said so far talks have been going extremely well. To proceed with certification the association must have cards signed by at least 40 per cent of the defined bargaining unit. She said this unit has not yet been defined, but likely will consist of all professors teaching at the university a population of approximately 1,200.
Ratcliffe refused to divulge the details on how many cards had been signed so far but did say those who are refusing to sign the cards are few and far between. Once the necessary cards have been signed, a ratification vote is conducted by the Ontario Labour Relations Board and if a majority is in favour of certification the faculty association will become a union.
Moran said there are certain consequences for the negotiating process if certification is to occur. Negotiations will be restrained by what the Labour Relations Act dictates, he said. "It would bring on a much more formalized and bureaucratic negotiating process."