Changes made to university staff contracts
Bargaining for the new contract for staff members at Wilfrid Laurier University has ended. Negotiations ended on June 20 and the collective agreement, which will extend over the next three years, has been ratified.
Allison Roberts, chief negotiator for the university at the bargaining table, described the process as being respectful and productive.
“It was a really good example of interest-based bargaining, where you really engage in real-time problem solving right at the table, open dialogue, a really high-level of trust and respect,” she continued.
The collective agreement for staff members expired on June 30, but negotiations were set in motion on March 25.
“Allison and I had a very good rapport even before bargaining started and I think we were able to use that to make the process go pretty smoothly,” said Keith Goulet, chief negotiator for the Wilfrid Laurier University Staff Association.
In general, Goulet explained that the concerns WLUSA brings to the bargaining table involve salaries, pensions and job security.
Goulet continued that one of the bigger changes made to the contract involves the concept of equivalencies. Rather than a certain job posting requiring applicants have a degree and experience, applicants no longer need a degree in order to be considered, barring they have lots of experience.
“That was probably one of the biggest victories that we were happy with,” he said. “And of course we managed to bargain some salary increases and some benefit increases which I know our members really enjoy as well.”
In terms of bumps in the process, Goulet said WLUSA filed for conciliation with the ministry of labour on June 12. They never had to use a conciliator, however.
“The university … had a meeting with the board of governors on June 19 and were able to change their position a little bit, and so we changed our position a little bit and then we got an agreement,” Goulet said. “So little bumps, yes. But big bumps, no, not really.”
WLUSA’s ratification vote yielded 95 per cent approval by staff.
Roberts explained that often when two sides come out of bargaining their relationship can be threatened. She believes that their relationship was enhanced.
“I think we gained even greater respect for one another.”
According to Roberts, the university went into bargaining with a need to have employees contribute at a higher level to the pension plan. WLUSA did agree to the university’s proposals in regard to the pension. WLUSA also agreed to co-pay on post-retirement benefits, which Roberts said will help put more money into classrooms and student programming.
“I think the university achieved its goals,” Roberts said.
She noted that the university also gained more flexibility in terms of hiring for research grants, and made improvements to the recruitment and displacement process.
“We always try to at least listen and see if there is some tweaks and stuff,” said Goulet. “I think that’s what makes bargaining for us such a positive experience.”