Union votes are out
By Dave Yasvinski
Thanks to a motion passed at last week's University of Western Ontario Faculty Association meeting, the faculty union will soon be given the opportunity to vote on a controversial clause many members thought was already included in their union certification agreement.
The clause would allow union members to redirect their union fees away from the union and towards a charity, based on "reasons of conscience." The fact many members believed this to be an unfulfilled certification promise prompted UWOFA member Steve Lupker to propose this issue be voted on.
"I proposed the motion and went over reasons why people should support it a colleague proposed it go to a mail ballot and it was passed fairly firmly," he said.
Lupker explained he wanted to raise this issue because faculty members were promised before union certification, in a newsletter, that conscientious objections would be allowed, adding he agreed to the idea in principle. More importantly, he said if the issue is not settled it could have a negative effect on the association.
"I see it as one of the things that will divide the group we must present a strong face. Students won back Orientation Week by presenting a strong face to administration, this is what you have to do," he said.
David Heap, the UWOFA member who was responsible for writing the certification newsletter which led to the confusion, said a promise was never made. "As far as I'm concerned that wasn't a promise. It said '[members] may direct dues' for me this refers to a possibility."
UWOFA president Aniko Varpalotai, said the vote ballots will be sent out to faculty members within the next two weeks. She said a mail ballot will be used because the faculty members felt the issue needed to go out to a broader vote.
Varpalotai added she is not in favour of this clause because it is difficult to interpret exactly what constitutes a conscientious objection. "I would like to see it defeated, it is too difficult to adjudicate this kind of thing it is opening a huge can of worms trying to judge a person's moral and conscientious grounds," she said.
Varpalotai added the important issue right now is developing and negotiating the union's first contract, however, at least this vote will remove any lingering doubts about broken promises. She said she recognized how some members might have been unintentionally led to believe this clause would be part of the agreement.
"With the worst possible spin I guess you could call it a broken promise," she said.
Western's VP-academic, Greg Moran, said because the UWOFA and administration are negotiating under the Ontario Labour Relations Act, his ability to comment was restrained. "This should be settled by the faculty association," he said.
It will take several weeks for the results of the ballot to be known.