Contract receives stamp of approval
Western students can now breathe a sigh of relief: the threat of a faculty work stoppage, looming during contract negotiations over the past few months, is now gone.
Last Wednesday, faculty members voted 81.6 per cent in favour of ratifying a new contract. Negotiations began almost a year ago and in January the faculty voted to give the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association the right to strike.
"We are very happy that a sizable percentage approved the new contract," said Albert Katz, president of UWOFA. "There is still a very, very large number of people almost one in five faculty members who voted against it." This reflects the faculty's dissatisfaction with their salaries not being competitive, he explained.
"Even after this agreement we will still be among the lowest [compensated] of the large research-intensive universities," Katz said. "It's going to be difficult [for the university] to hire and to maintain good faculty here especially with the double cohort coming."
Overall, Katz said there were some very positive changes in the new contract, but some concerns still remain.
"It is a good collective agreement for both sides," said Alex Mercer, director of faculty relations at Western. "I believe it will make Western very competitive."
The new contract includes a salary increase across the board of 3.5 per cent, retroactive to the first year of the agreement (last year) and 3 per cent for every year following that, Mercer said.
Several changes to the contract also involve part time faculty, he said. For example, measures were introduced to clarify workload and protect against the imposition of higher workloads for part time faculty, Mercer added.
A change to the grievance and arbitration process now includes an increased emphasis on local solutions and an ability to consider solutions without the automatic creation of a precedent, Mercer explained. "This is a very positive thing because it will allow more innovative solutions to occur," he said.
"[As well], pregnancy and parental leave has been adjusted to reflect the requirements of government legislation," Mercer said. In addition to this, the amount of supplemental paid benefits have been increased by four weeks for full time faculty, he explained.
"[The agreement] will benefit students, ultimately," said Adrienne Kennedy, University Students' Council VP-campus issues. "We're pleased that [contract negotiations] were settled without disrupting the school year."