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UWO faculty gear for a strike

With a strike looming as early as midnight Tuesday, the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA) has moved its strike preparations into high gear. 
 
Bargaining Wire:  Why Hire a Mediator?
Why would a faculty association have both a conciliator and a mediator, and what might be the differences between conciliation and mediation?
 
Data Check: Few zeroes in sight as wages increase more than 2%
A survey of public sector employers reveals that less than three per cent are planning wages freezes, in spite of the Ontario government’s no-net compensation wage policy.  
 

 
UWO faculty gear for a strike
With a strike looming as early as midnight Tuesday, the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA) has moved its strike preparations into high gear. 
 
The faculty association office has been moved from the campus to a rented facility that will serve as strike headquarters. It is also organizing transportation to take picketers from strike HQ to picket lines, should there be a labour disruption.
 
A strike would be the first in the faculty association’s history, making for an “exciting but fraught time,” in the words of faculty negotiator Mike Dawes.
 
(Last week, Dawes was presented with an OCUFA Lorimer Award in recognition of his contribution to faculty collective bargaining.)
 
Faculty negotiators at Western are working with mediator John Quinn and are meeting with the administration every day in efforts to avoid a dispute.  
 
In Ottawa, the Carleton University Academic Staff Association (CUASA) has requested a no-board report from the Ministry of Labour. It is also working with mediator William Kaplan to effect a new collective agreement.  Further meetings with the administration and Kaplan are scheduled for next weekend.
 
Slow progress characterizes other faculty bargaining tables. At Algoma, the parties met Tuesday this week, their first meeting since August 23, with five future meetings scheduled. At Nipissing, with the administration continuing to demand zero wage increases, the faculty association is canvassing members for a strike vote.
 
 
Bargaining Wire:  Why Hire a Mediator?
The faculty association (CUASA) and administration at Carleton University have hired William Kaplan as a mediator in the bargaining underway at the university.  The parties also met with a Ministry of Labour appointed conciliator, John Miller, last week.
 
Why would a faculty association have both a conciliator and a mediator? What are the differences between conciliation and mediation?
 
The primary difference between them is legal.  As described in a previous “Bargaining Wire”, conciliation is one of the legal steps a union and employer must go through before engaging in a strike or lock-out.  Mediation, on the other hand, is purely voluntary and cannot be substituted for the mandatory Ontario Labour Relations Act process of conciliation.
 
But, at the practical level, there is no real difference in how conciliators and mediators try to bring the parties to a settlement.  At a recent OCUFA Collective Bargaining Committee meeting, Reg Pearson, director of Dispute Resolution Services at the Ministry of Labour, noted that all his provincially appointed conciliators are trained in “active mediation.” In this model, the mediator is a participant in the discussions and can, and will, propose his or her own solutions.
 
Hiring a non-government mediator is just one more way the parties can attempt to reach a settlement without needing to resort to a strike or lock-out, which is the goal in every round of bargaining.
 
 
Data Check: Few zeroes in sight as wages increase more than 2%
A Conference Board of Canada survey of public sector employers reveals that less than three per cent are planning zero-per-cent wage increases this year. That figure is down from last year’s six per cent, in spite of the Ontario government’s no-net compensation wage policy.  
 
In fact, surveys conducted by the most respected wage analysts in the industry show that employers are approving wage increases above two per cent for 2010.
 
The Hay Group’s survey of the broader public sector shows an average 2.4 per cent increases in that sector, while the Hewitt Associates’ survey shows 2.5 per cent.
 
An Ontario government argument for public-sector wage freezes was that public employees were pulling ahead of private sector workers. But Conference Board surveys are showing an average 2.3 per cent wage increase in the public sector, compared to 2.9 per cent in the private sector.


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