CAS contract talks moving on to mediation; 90 per cent of CAS vote in favour of strike

Graphic by Lena Yang.

Graphic by Lena Yang.

A date has been set for Contract Academic Staff (CAS) representatives and Wilfrid Laurier University officials to return to contract negotiations.

The parties will meet for mediation on Nov. 26, only two days before CAS is in a legal strike position and the university is in a legal lock-out position.

“The university is glad to be getting back to the bargaining table. You can’t reach a deal unless both sides are talking,” said Kevin Crowley, the acting assistant vice president for communications, public affairs and marketing at Laurier. “So we’re glad that WLUFA [Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association] has agreed to meet with us with a mediator.”

A mediator, according to WLUFA president William Salatka, has more power than a conciliator  — through which two previous meetings were conducted  — and helps to put more pressure on negotiations.

“It works toward getting the parties to get to an agreement, because we don’t want a lock-out, the administration doesn’t want a strike, so it makes it more important to get some kind of agreement at the bargaining table,” he said. “So I think it’s positive in the sense that it’ll help to motivate both sides to get to an agreement.”

CAS was granted a No Board report from the provincial ministry of labour last week, granting them the ability to move into a legal strike position after 20 days.

90.6 per cent of CAS voted in favour of allowing the WLUFA executive to authorize a strike, if needed.

“At this point, we’re nowhere near a strike, because we’re planning to meet at the table,” Salatka clarified.  “Again, it’s something that’s a normal part of bargaining. The members are sending the signal to the administration that … they’re talking to over 300, 400 people.”

“It’s not 90 per cent of all CAS members, it’s 90 per cent of those who showed up to vote,” said Crowley.

“The union can’t move forward without healthy support from its membership. So it’s not unexpected.”

Salatka said that while he didn’t know the exact numbers, there was a high turnout for the vote.

While the university is not anticipating a strike at this point, Crowley said they will be prepared and will communicate frequently with students if such a situation does arise.

“We have to be responsible and we have to be prudent. We will be communicating loudly and regularly with students if it’s coming down to the wire and it doesn’t look like a deal’s going to get done,” he said.

“Our students are our first priority. We’ll be communicating with them and we’ll be doing everything we can to make sure they’re not inconvenienced should the CAS choose to go on strike.”
WLUFA and the university have met more than 20 times since May.

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