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UWOFA continues negotiating
By Paul-Mark Rendon
The University of Western Ontario's Faculty Association is so inconvenienced by the pace of its current contract negotiations with administration, they are wishing they could call negotiating expert Buzz Hargrove to the scene.
The UWOFA bargaining team has worked out an increased schedule of meetings with their administration counterparts running up until the end of February to expedite the talks, said Mike Dawes, UWOFA's chief negotiator.
Dawes said the negotiations, which have been in the works since September of 1998, have dragged on for an extended time and would likely continue until the end of February.
"I don't know how many more months it will be I hope not many," he said. "We have doubts about some proposals that are coming from administration, but we do have a commitment from them to increase the number and length of scheduled meetings," he said.
Eddie Ebanks, vice-president of UWOFA's executive committee, said the two sides have agreed to more face-to-face meetings, including five all-day and weekend negotiation sessions before reading week, in an effort to hammer out a first contract.
Dawes explained the negotiations have taken such a slow pace because each proposal must be reviewed and edited by either side. "On some issues, there's a big gap, but that doesn't mean we can't get to some middle point," he said, adding although no items were agreed to this month, issues such as income security and working conditions were currently on the table.
The issue of salary gaps between faculty at Western and several other Ontario universities was also mentioned by Dawes as an area of concern.
Citing 1998-99 statistics, Dawes explained Western's full time faculty were ranked behind the universities of Toronto, McMaster, Guelph and Waterloo with respect to overall salary. U of T faculty were paid close to $16,000 more than Western faculty, Dawes said.
Although she would not comment on the developments emerging from the latest round of talks on the contracts, Roma Harris, Western's registrar and part of administration's negotiating team, said administration was pleased the two sides were making steady progress.
Dawes explained the negotiations could not go to arbitration because provincial collective bargaining policy ruled out arbitration for first time contracts.
"I think some would prefer to lock the two sides in a hotel room for a week until [the contract] is finished," Dawes said. "We're working to get the process sped up so we could see some conclusion in a reasonable length of time."