STAFF ASSOCIATION

 

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Changing Times for QUSA Staff

This month (March 2014) QUSA has been holding General meetings to update staff of the changing relationship between QUSA and the University Administration, and what the implications are for non-union staff at Queen's.  The following is the information provided at these meetings, along with some of the Q & A.

Background:

The current QUSA executive took office in July 2012.  At the outset of our term, it was agreed in meetings with the administration that it was time to look at updating the QUSA Memoradum of Understanding to more accurately reflect the current working environment. At the Annual General Meeting in May 2013, the QUSA executive reported to the membership that we would finally be starting to work with Human Resources on this.  We had been pushing for this as we knew it would be a lengthy process, and wanted to complete it before entering into the new round of Salary and Benefit discussions due in 2014.

Very early on in the scheduled meetings in the fall of 2013, HR representatives informally (and under confidentiality) advised the QUSA executive that the administration had decided to no longer acknowledge the staff association as the recognized representative for non-union staff as of June 30, 2014 and that they would not work with us to update the MoU.  Their chosen direction was to establish another method of communicating (as yet undetermined) with staff to elicit feedback on matters that impacted them.  QUSA sought legal advice on their decision to terminate the MoU, and on that advice the executive demanded formal written notice from the Associate Vice-Principal, Al Orth.  We received that formal written notice on February 4, 2014.  HR's justification for this direction was their belief that QUSA membership levels are not truly representative of the body of non-union staff, and that since only members can vote it is unfair to the rest of that staff group.  The QUSA executive offered several ideas designed to resolve those concerns, but were turned down each time.

On December 6, 2013 an email was sent to all staff announcing an initiative by HR to develop a new structure for connecting with non-union staff in the 2-9 and 10-14 groups.  The first step in their process is to run focus groups to gather feedback from different sectors of the non-union staff group.  The staff who will participate in these focus groups will be chosen by HR according to a demographic map.  On the executives' request, HR agreed to consider staff who show an interest in volunteering to participate in the groups.  The Grade 10-14 staff group (244 employees) have already attended focus group meetings this January.  3 focus groups of 10 members each gave feedback.  That feedback is currently being compiled now, and will be shared with QUSA once compiled.  The next set of focus groups will take place at the end of March/early April and will be divided up as follows:  Managerial/Confidential excludes grades 2-6 = 1 group of 15 people; Managerial/Confidential excludes grades 7-9 = 2 focus groups of 15 people (total of 288 employees); and RG&C (497 employees) grades 2-9 = 5  groups of 15 people each.

QUSA Concerns

HR intends to formulate a new process for soliciting feedback from staff on matters that impact them.  They have, however, been very clear from the start - there is no interest in negotiating with staff on matters, or staff having a vote.  That is a big step backwards in our opinion.  It will mean that non-union staff will be the ONLY employee group in this institution that is not able to have the opportunity to collectively accept or reject proposals that affect them.  Over the years staff have worked hard to achieve equalized pay grids, tuition and childcare support, and other benefits.  All of this by exercising a voice that brought forward ideas, recommendations, and a vote that sometimes had to be strong and turn down proposals that would negatively impact compensation, benefits and policies.  That vote has also lent support to coordinated employee group positions on things like pension change.   

What happens to staff positions on committees such as the Multi-Employee Group Pension Committee? Do those become appointed? By whom? HR?  Even Staff Senate positions are voted on. Who will communicate news about committee reports; pass on information about happenings on campus; liaise with the other 7 employee groups on campus - Unity Council.  We believe that it is a conflict of interest for Human Resources to represent the interests of non-union staff when that same department negotiates on behalf of the employer with the other staff unions.  They cannot act in our best interests if they are acting in the best interests of the employer at all other times.

Where do we go from here?  

Join a committee to work with staff to decide.

Well, there are a couple of options for the staff in these groups to consider.  The focus groups will be taking place no matter what.

  1. Do nothing.  Let things take their course.  Grade 10-14 staff will be separated (the administration has been heading in that direction for the last year) from the general body of 2-9 staff.  From the feedback from the focus  groups, HR will proceed with plans for a new structure of soliciting staff input.  But no vote, no making a stand.
     
  2. This is a two-pronged option.
    1. Grades 10-14 together with the Managerial/Confidential 2-9 excluded staff investigate forming a Professional Association.  This would be a legal entity under common law.  It is possible for one association to have separate contracts for different groups of community.  Various universities in Ontario and across Canada have professional associations to represent those staff who are not unionized.
       
    2. RG&C staff support a union drive to form their own unit with the larger general support staff local 2010. 

We are of course, open to other viable ideas from staff.  Please contact us with suggestions.

This is the gist of the information we have presented.  We are in the process of compiling the questions and answers from the meetings already held.