Road to unionization may be a bumpy ride
By Brendan Howe
In the wake of an overwhelming approval by members to unionize, the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association still has another hurdle to jump before reaching that goal.
Both full and part-time professors voted 65 per cent in favour of unionization last week but the shape of the union or unions are yet to be defined. University administration wants separate bargaining units for both full and part-time faculty while the UWOFA would like them to be one combined unit.
Andrew Osler, president of the UWOFA, said the association feels it would be inappropriate if the faculty were split in two because they have the same qualifications, education and do the same work. "There simply aren't two communities of labour here. It's hard to imagine a difference [between the two]."
Full-time professors voted 62 per cent in favour of certifying while part-time professors voted 82 per cent for it. Of the 1,271 faculty eligible to vote last week, 71 per cent did so.
Western's VP-administration Peter Mercer said the university feels the two should be separate because historically the university has bargained differently with the two groups. He also said the two don't have the same interests or when they do, they attribute different priority levels to them.
"We think it makes a clearer process of negotiations," he said.
The administration also believes associate deans should not be included as part of the bargaining unit while the UWOFA does.
The administration, faculty association and Ontario Labour Relations Board are scheduled to meet on March 25 to discuss their differences and if they can not be resolved a hearing will be held on March 30 by the board where will be decided the final composition of the union.
Kris Heshka, a solicitor at the OLRB, said during the hearing the board will ask each group whether having full and part-time faculty as one group would cause serious labour relations problems. "If having them together is appropriate, the board will grant them a [union] certificate."
She added the UWOFA will put forward a proposal for the shape of the bargaining unit and, if appropriate, the OLRB will approve it.
On the issue of associate deans being included, Heshka said if they exhibit management functions or are employed in a confidential capacity in matters relating to labour relations, they can not be part of the union.
After the hearing, the OLRB will decide the bargaining unit and the faculty association will be a union in April, Osler said. Then administration and UWOFA will negotiate a comprehensive agreement.