Volume 96, Issue 57
Friday, January 10, 2003

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Western faculty to vote on possible strike mandate

By Emmett Macfarlane
Gazette Staff

Western faculty members will hold a vote before Jan. 17 on whether or not to give the faculty association the authority to strike.

The decision to hold the strike vote was decided at a meeting Wednesday night, said University of Western Ontario Faculty Association president Paul Handford.

"The strike vote is simply to answer the question yes or no to give [UWOFA's] board a strike mandate," Handford said.

"Having a positive strike vote does not mean there's going to be a strike," he said, adding negotiations between UWOFA and Western administration will continue.

"It's a signal to the administration of the seriousness the membership holds of its position," Handford stated.

Western's director of faculty relations, Alex Mercer, described the decision to hold the strike vote as unfortunate. "In my view, it's premature," he said.

"One of the reasons it's taken so long is the number of changes the faculty association wants to make from the previous agreement," Mercer said, adding UWOFA's non-salary proposals would cost over $30 million.

"Once [the faculty] gives the association the mandate to strike, the association does not have to go back to the faculty," Mercer said. For example, he explained, if the faculty views salary as the main issue and it is resolved, UWOFA could strike over other issues without seeking a mandate.

Mercer said he sees the strike vote more as a threat than a simple message. "There should be no worry about us not taking them seriously," he said, adding he hopes the faculty will vote against a strike mandate.

"The message for students needs to be to not overreact – yet," said University Students' Council president Chris Sinal. "There's a process that can take months before anyone is in a legal position to strike."

Sinal said if the two parties allow themselves to get into a legal strike or lockout position, he will be disappointed in both of them. "I respect the different positions both [parties] are in, but I urge them to always keep in mind why they're here, and that is to educate students."

Handford said a strike is very unlikely in the near future. An impasse in negotiations would have to be declared by one of the parties, after which a conciliator would be appointed, he said.

If conciliation is unsuccessful, the Ontario Minister of Labour issues a statement that a Conciliation Board will not be appointed. After a period of 17 days following this "no board report," a strike or lockout may legally take place.


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