Faculty votes for union
By Brendan Howe
A huge voter turnout of faculty members over the past two days has sent a definite message to Western's administration: an overwhelming majority of professors want to be unionized.
The University of Western Ontario Faculty Association can now certify after 65 per cent of voters were in favour of the idea, while only 35 per cent opposed becoming a union. Of the 1,271 full and part-time professors eligible to vote, 71 per cent exercised their right, including 80 per cent of full-time faculty voting, while 43 per cent of part-time faculty members cast their ballot.
"It shows that the faculty has very serious problems with the administration that must be resolved," said Marjorie Ratcliffe, a Spanish professor who spearheaded the certification drive. She said she was pleased with the unexpected high voter turnout.
Over reading week, the UWOFA submitted an application for ratification with the Ontario Labour Relations Board which by law had to hold a vote of faculty members within five business days of the application.
Peter Mercer, VP-administration at Western, said he was glad it was decisive. "We look forward to resuming negotiations with the faculty association." Administration members have previously stated that certification does not address solutions, but only helps the negotiating process.
The UWOFA and university administration were negotiating for a comprehensive agreement during the summer but talks broke off when UWOFA left the table in October. Their members voted in favour of pursuing certification shortly after.
The UWOFA is hoping problems with administration can be solved amicably, Ratcliffe said. "This is a whole new beginning on the negotiating process here because we'll be negotiating as equals."
Peter Denny, an associate professor of psychology, said he voted for certification and thinks it is a good idea. "Unions are what ensure people get paid a fair amount for their work. Before unions, people were starving."
Queen's University is one of the most recent universities to have its faculty association certify and it successfully negotiated a comprehensive agreement after they became a union. Approximately 80 per cent of Canadian universities have a unionized faculty.
Patrick Deane, a professor of English, would not say whether he supported unionization or not but did vote this week. "It's very important for negotiations between faculty and administration to be carried on in the most organized and clear way.
He added the certification of Queen's made the working conditions for faculty members there better.
The current agreement between the UWOFA and administration runs out in July.