WLUFA and the university reach tentative agreement for contract staff
After over six months of negotiations, Contract Academic Staff (CAS) representatives and Wilfrid Laurier University have reached a tentative deal.
The agreement on the CAS contract renewal was reached at around 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 26 following a day-long mediation session.
“I think all sides were very happy, the university certainly is,” said Kevin Crowley, Laurier’s acting assistant vice-president: communications, public affairs and marketing.
“You go to mediation, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” said William Salatka, president of the Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association (WLUFA), which has been representing CAS in negotiations. “And we had a good mediator.”
“I was prepared to be there all night. Sometimes that happens.”
According to Salatka, there weren’t any surprises in the session.
The agreement must be approved by CAS members and Laurier’s board of governors before it becomes official. No date for those votes has yet been set.
“The CAS members have to look at it, debate it and vote,” explained Salatka. “So that’s going to happen quick. We’ll know very soon if CAS members will be satisfied with it.”
Crowley added, “They want to get it done as quickly as possible so they can just move on. So it’s usually done within a week.”
While the parties involved are cautiously optimistic that the deal will be accepted, there is a possibility that it will not be passed by one or both sides. In this case, parties will return to negotiations to try and reach a deal.
“From the university’s point of view, any major decisions done at the bargaining table are done knowing the parameters that the board of governors has outlined. So we know what we can agree to and what we can’t,” said Crowley. “Generally, a tentative deal is done with union members and the board of governors knowing what the boundaries are.”
He continued, “You can never say never, that’s why they have votes and that’s why the board of governors needs to approve it, but both sides have shook on it and signed off at the table, and we’re hopeful that the membership and the board of governors will also see fit to approve it.”
The tentative deal, he believes, is positive news.
The agreement came two days before CAS are set to enter a legal strike position and the administration a legal lock-out position based on a No Board report that was issued by the ministry of labour.
“Oh there’s no question,” responded Salatka, when asked if the No Board report helped to prompt a deal.
“It puts pressure on all the parties. It puts pressure on the employer and the union.”
All steps of the negotiation process, he says, are aimed at helping the groups to find a middle ground.
Crowley feels that talks were “productive and constructive” since their onset last spring.
Negotiations began after the parties exchanged proposals on May 14, 2014. After that, there were 21 meetings, followed by two conciliation sessions that took place this semester.
There are 376 CAS instructors employed part-time at Laurier.