Volume 96, Issue 70
Tuesday, February 4, 2003

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Conciliator to try and avert strike

By Emmett Macfarlane
Gazette Staff

Western administration and the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association have taken another step towards a work stoppage, after both parties made and rejected proposals during negotiations.

UWOFA called for the appointment of a conciliator from the Ontario Labour Board Friday, after the administration rejected its offer for binding arbitration.

"We're a bit disappointed, because we were hoping to get a collective bargaining agreement at the table," said David Estok, director of Western's department of communications and public affairs.

Estok said the university presented a substantial financial proposal on Monday, to which UWOFA responded with the offer for binding arbitration.

"The union did approach us about going to binding arbitration," he said. "We felt that binding arbitration would be not only costly, but a lengthy process."

UWOFA President Paul Handford said the package Western offered made it appear to be a "take it or leave it" offer. "We were very unhappy with their package, for reasons we will be making clear," he said. "There wasn't really any prospect for negotiating," he added.

"What will happen is anyone's guess," Handford said, adding UWOFA has always been hopeful a deal will be reached.

Some conciliators are very skilled at reaching a compromise between two parties, he said. "We have no idea how long the conciliation process will last."

Both parties said a strike was not necessarily imminent. "We're still very confident we can reach an agreement through conciliation," Estok said, adding administration will continue to keep students informed.

"We're very hopeful administration will see the reason in making us a decent offer instead of a wholly inadequate one," Handford said.

Neville Austin, executive assistant to the director of labour management services at the Ontario Ministry of Labour, said it normally takes a few working days for a conciliator to be appointed.

If the conciliator cannot bring the two parties to an agreement, one of the parties will ask for a "no board report," Austin said, adding 17 days after such a report, the parties will be in a legal lockout or strike position. "The idea is that the parties themselves are in the position to know whether negotiations [are working]."

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