Faculty give union power to strike
Western's faculty has voted to give its union the power to strike if negotiations with the university administration reach an impasse.
Seventy per cent of faculty members who went to the polls last Thursday and Friday, favoured giving the union the mandate to strike. "We're very pleased with the result," said University of Western Ontario Faculty Association President Paul Handford.
Handford said the vote gives the union strong leverage at the bargaining table. "We hope the administration sees it that way," he said, adding that, since Western is a generally conservative campus, the results were quite remarkable.
Although Handford said neither side wants a strike, he noted it is up to administration to give credible movement in negotiations.
"It's not a surprise that, from time to time, in collective bargaining, the union goes to [its members] for a vote," said David Estok, director of Western's department of communications and public affairs. "Our focus right now is to get a deal," he said, adding he feels confident a deal can be reached.
Sociology professor Michael Carroll said he believes both sides honestly want to avoid a strike. "The nasty truth is that the effectiveness of a faculty strike depends on inconveniencing students," he said. "That's why strikes tend to be held in March, when the strike can pose a threat to the completion of the school year, to graduation and to summer jobs."
Handford said there is no time during the year when faculty power is at zero. "It is also true there are certain times of the year when the power of withdrawing labour is enhanced," he said. "We have to take those type of things into account."
Estok said he could not respond to hypothetical situations. "Our position is very clear. We're going to go back to the table to get a fair and reasonable settlement," he said.
The strike vote follows controversy surrounding a document released to faculty by the administration, outlining some of the union's proposals. The document stated proposals included "breast-feeding stations on every floor of every building" and "covered bicycle sheds adjacent to every entrance of every campus building."
"I think it's pretty obvious, given the content and timing of its release, [that] it was designed to [affect] the vote," Handford said. "Clearly, it was designed to sow dissension."
Handford said UOWFA has no intention of withdrawing from the entire proposal, but added compromise was part of the process.
Third-year history and sociology student Noel Greaves said the union was taking advantage of students. "Even discussing the idea of a strike is dangerous [at] this type of institution," he said.