Faculty decide to play defense
By Mark Brown
Western's faculty has alleviated one of the strongest pressures facing them after they voted last night in favour of adopting the Canadian Association of University Teachers National Defence Fund.
Over the summer the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association received its certification from the Ontario Labour Relations Board and are now in the early stages of negotiating a collective agreement with Western's administration.
The CAUT National Defence Fund would act as an insurance if the UWOFA goes on strike, said Aniko Varpalotai, president of the UWOFA.
It would provide strike pay, a line of credit and benefits if the faculty association and Western's administration were engaged in a long arbitration, she explained.
"It is a form of insurance so the faculty members do not fear an economic threat," said Robert Rosebrugh, chair of the CAUT Defence Fund. "It will give the UWOFA access to close to $10 million."
Although the faculty voted 53-7 in favour of the fund, the issue did not pass without debate.
"It makes it more likely we will strike," said Al Slivinski, an economics professor. He also warned about the cost of a strike to faculty and students.
Many members of the UWOFA believe that by joining the defence fund they will be better able to secure a deal with the administration. "Voting in favour of the defence fund will get us sooner to where we want to be," said Mike Dawes, chief negotiator for the UWOFA.
Although there are a lot of varying factors which determine a strike when a strike happens, it is usually the result of some misunderstanding, Rosebrugh said.
"There is some psychological advantage to join the defence Fund early and not when negotiations are going bad," Rosebrugh said.
Varpalotai agreed, citing an example at Queens' University where the faculty joined the defence fund late in the negotiating period. Before they joined, the Queen's administration was stalling.
Western's administration is not concerned with this latest step by the UWOFA. "Our strategy in negotiation will remain the same as the time the union vote was held," explained Peter Mercer, Western's VP-administration. "Our attitude is one of good faith, it has not changed or varied."
The cost to join the Defence Fund will be included in the current fees paid by all members of the UWOFA, Varpalotai said. The members of the UWOFA will now pay 0.74 per cent of their gross salary, she added.