QUFA negotiations lead to questions and uncertainty
Questions are being raised within the wider Queen’s community about the broader implications of the ongoing collective bargaining process between the university and the Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA). In response, Queen’s administration is stepping up its information-sharing efforts – both to help provide some answers as well as to shine more light on some of the normal uncertainties that can be raised during any critical labour negotiation.
“The negotiations with QUFA are, naturally, of great interest and concern to the entire Queen’s community,” says Bob Silverman, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “The administration is aware of that concern and is committed to doing its part to address the questions that are being raised. As the negotiating process evolves, it’s natural for people to begin to engage with the broader issues.”
Various Queen’s administrative offices have been receiving inquiries about the wider implications of the negotiating process – and the potential impact of work-stoppages – for the broader Queen’s community.
“Lots of attention has been focused on the milestone of June 30,” says Provost Silverman. “The date has become a focal point for negotiations, but there is nothing specific about the date – neither the university nor QUFA is, as yet, in a position to move beyond the conciliation process. The administration remains resolutely focused on reaching a timely, negotiated settlement with QUFA.”
Conciliation – a facilitated process that aims at finding potential common ground between the two parties – began on Tuesday, June 28. The use of a conciliation officer to assist the parties in negotiating an agreement is a normal part of the collective bargaining process. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement through the conciliation process, either party could ask the conciliator to file a report — called a “no board” report — that would formally conclude the conciliation process. Seventeen days after that, the union would be in a legal position to call a strike and the employer would be in a legal position to declare a lockout. Even once this process has begun, the parties are still free to continue negotiations and attempt to reach a settlement (for more information on collective bargaining processes, please see the information available at http://queensu.ca/labournews).
Citing the university’s responsibility to be prepared for all possibilities, Provost Silverman says Queen’s began a contingency planning process early this Spring.
“One of the main issues people have been grappling with relates to research activities at the university,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “People are understandably concerned about the effects a labour stoppage could have on those activities.”
Vice-Principal Liss has been receiving a wide range of inquiries about the potential effects of a work stoppage – everything from the implications for research fellows and lab technicians to the potential for restricted access to university facilities. “The implications are significant, of course. There is no question that the university will adhere to its various obligations, including compliance requirements, but exactly how and in what manner we will serve even those fundamental interests is still to be resolved,” he says.
Vice-Principal Liss and his office will be working closely with the faculties to assess the potential issues and develop a process for evaluating and addressing the challenges a labour-stoppage might bring. “The only thing certain at this point is that it will not be business as usual, should a work-stoppage occur,” he says. “We will be working hard to protect Queen’s place as a premier research institution – no doubt – but people should not be complacent about these questions. It will require significant effort and cooperation to find even the most basic, workable solutions. Little is certain and nothing should be assumed to be guaranteed. I would encourage everyone with an interest in this to get engaged.”
In the meantime, negotiations between QUFA and the university continue. Regular updates on the negotiations will continue to be distributed through e-Queen’s electronic news bulletin and can be found, anytime, at http://queensu.ca/labournews.