CAS, WLU ratify labour agreement

Few Wilfrid Laurier University students need be reminded of the conditions that temporarily paused life on campus in the winter of 2008. Classes came to a halt and tutorials were put on hold as the university saw its contract academic staff (CAS) haunting the picket lines.

For the time being, it appears that the disagreements between the CAS and WLU have reached an endpoint — or at least a starting point in a future of negotiations and agreements.

Months of bargaining between university administration and the Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association (WLUFA), the union that represents the CAS, led to a tentative settlement on June 16, 2011.

However, the settlement wasn’t ratified until quite recently. Judy Bates, WLUFA president and professor of geography and environmental studies, explained that the majority of the CAS members have contracts to teach in the fall and winter term.

“We felt that it would not be appropriate to go ahead with the ratification vote in the summer,” she added. Instead, they decided to wait until the fall, when more CAS members would be present.

Ratification took place on the evening of Sept. 14. Bates said that the changes will come into effect over the course of the next few weeks.

When asked about the goals the CAS was hoping to achieve in the new contract, Bates explained, “One of the main points was that we wanted to improve working conditions for our faculty.”

Out of date computers and lack of access to offices in the Dr. Alvin Woods Building (DAWB) were both issues they wanted addressed. Improvements were made in both instances.

Bates further noted that the most important topic may be the transparency in the hiring processes. “We were finding that some instances, rare instances, but nevertheless some; it seemed to us that departments were hiring friends,” she said. “It wasn’t very objective.”

Kendra Young, administrative manager of the faculty of relations at WLU, agreed that one of the things both sides wanted was to streamline procedures with regards to hiring. As a result, one of the changes being implemented is a roster form. “We had training on that last week,” said Young. “It was actually a good change in the agreement.”

Despite the fact that the CAS achieved many of their goals, a few issues were left unresolved. However, Bates acknowledged that this was normal for negotiating.

She contended that this could be due to the fact that CAS members weren’t fully engaged in the process. “Had they been,” she reflected. “I think we would have achieved a lot more.”

Young said university administration was happy with the results on their side. “Like everything,” she continued. “Some people are going to be very happy, some people aren’t , some are going to be in the middle.”

Overall, the CAS members were mostly satisfied. “I mean, obviously they would have liked more,” Bates explained, concluding that terms not met will be goals for next time.

From the university standpoint, Young found that the bargaining went very smoothly. She said that the process was a good pace, filled with lots of discussion.

“I hope that what we came up with actually worked for both parties,” she concluded. “There were a lot of improvements that both sides actually agreed with and wanted.”

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