Negotiating the negotiations
By Dave Yasvinski
The University of Western Ontario Faculty Association met yesterday as they slowly move towards entering contract negotiations with administration.
One of the main issues of interest at the meeting was the results of the mailout ballot vote on whether or not faculty members should be allowed to opt out of paying dues to the union, based on reasons of conscience. The current collective agreement only allows union members to opt out based on religious grounds.
The motion went to a mail ballot last month in response to concerns from faculty members who felt conscientious objections were already a part of the collective agreement. The motion was defeated by a vote of 189 to 125.
In other business, three new proposals were presented to the membership to be voted on in principle. The proposals dealt with workload, academic responsibility and financial emergencies.
Because workload and academic responsibility are closely related, the principles were voted on by the membership together. The issue of workload created some concern as it would make individual units or departments, responsible for setting the workload for the unit.
"This addresses something not formally addressed much. We want to make it clear that the local decisions are the most important. Each department or unit will automatically set up the workload standard for the unit," said Mike Dawes, chief negotiator for the UWOFA.
Clive Seligman, a psychology professor, argued this might be difficult to achieve. "If some [faculty members] are doing less than others, who will make that determination?" Seligman added he failed to see how this document could solve individual problems which may arise and suggested things should be kept the way they are.
Dawes explained they can no longer continue using past practices to settle such matters because the membership will be dealing with a new grievance process now that they have formed a collective agreement it is necessary to specify who is responsible for a unit's workload. "If something's not in the contract, you can't grieve it."
"The point of the article is that someone decides on the workload it was always our feeling that it should be the department," said Ernie Redekop, vice-president of the UWOFA.
The final proposal dealt with financial emergencies which would ensure if the university were to face financial hardships, members could take unpaid leaves instead of being laid off or fired.
All three proposals were passed by the membership in principle.