Members who are also employed at Brock outside of the scope of our representation, at another centre or department, can express support by joining the picket line when they can. For example, during their lunch hour if possible. It adds a tremendous boost of confidence to picketers to see workers going the extra mile out of their own comfort zone to show solidarity with them. Nothing tastes better than a lunch eaten on the picket line.
When a strike is called and picket lines are up we ask our members to cease working for the employer. The one and only one power tool workers have in their toolbox is to withhold labour collectively. It is a means to exert pressure on the employer to effect an acceptable collective agreement.
We do recognize that in the academic sector some graduate student workers’s research is vulnerable to spoilage if not attended. Graduate student members who need to attend to their recording irretrievable data and maintaining instruments and live material of their research, shall act upon their conscience to cross the picket line.
We do ask all members to stop working for the employer during the strike and picket as much as they can.
CUPE 4207 is comprised of three units. Unit 1 is in bargaining right now, and Unit 3 is preparing for negotiations.
Unit 1 — Instructors, Teaching Assistants, Lab Demonstrators, Marker/Graders, and Course Coordinators. Our members teach undergraduate courses, lead seminars and labs, and are involved in much of the marking in undergraduate courses. If you are an undergraduate student, you have most certainly would have been impacted by the work of a Unit 1 member. Three are more than 1,000 Unit 1 members.
Unit 3 — all English as a Second Language instructors who work in ESL Services at Brock University; about 68 members who are divided into three tiers – full time permanent, part-time permanent, and contract instructors.
What we want is a fair contract! The needs of Unit 1 are diverse, and our collective agreement needs drastic improvement in a number of key areas. These priorities are:
1. Job Security:
One of the best guarantees of job security is to fight to preserve the seminar system. A number of departments have been moving to eliminate seminars, and this has a negative effect on the quality of education at our university. Small seminars led by Unit 1 members has often been noted to provide superior instruction, and their loss would undermine the quality of education.
2. Working Conditions:
Our working conditions are students’ learning conditions! Many of our members are graduate students, and should not have their wages cut back with tuition increases. Members who are international graduate students should receive a rebate to offset the costs of the privatized UHIP.
In comparison to other unionized groups on campus, and our sister unions across campuses in Ontario, our members have no extended health benefits. Our members need benefits!
Here are bargaining priorities – concerns expressed by our members in a survey conducted in January this year. The filled out survey rate was the highest yet in the history of our local.
Why a Strike Vote?
Unit 1 collective agreement expired on September 6, 2016.
The Bargaining Committee of Unit 1 has met with the employer 9 times since September 1st. Negotiations have not been progressing in any meaningful way. So far, only a small number of minor issues concerning non-monetary language has been tentatively agreed upon. The important member-identified priorities — job security, work load, wages and benefits — remain to be discussed. The employer dragging their feet is not a good sing of meaningful negotiations. We need to pressure the University to take us seriously by casting a strong strike vote and preparing for a strike action if necessary.
What is a Strike Vote?
Strike mandate vote is a secret ballot vote frequently conducted by union locals during negotiations. The strike vote is required under the Ontario Labour Relations Act for a strike action to legally happen. The vote gives mandate to the union to call a strike if it is necessary to achieve an acceptable collective agreement. Many labour union locals exercise their right to conduct a strike mandate vote, but only a small fraction ends up going on strike.
The outcome of the vote is determined by majority of votes cast.
Does a YES vote mean there will be a strike?
No. A yes vote does not mean there will be a strike. In fact, a strike can happen even if members deliver a weak yes or a no vote. The union is not required to post the results of the vote, but not posting it indicates the vote wasn’t supportive enough to present it. In such a case the employer will see disunity within the bargaining unit and will exploit it in their favour by forcing substantive negative changes to the collective agreement language. This itself may push the local over the edge and to go on strike to defend what we have.
What results do we need?
A strong yes vote is necessary to get an acceptable collective agreement. The CA is an important contract that protects our working conditions. We should guard what we have and fight to improve it. A strong yes vote sends employer the message that we are unified behind our demands for a fair collective agreement and are even prepared to strike if necessary. Casting a resounding yes vote demonstrates strength — the employer must take us seriously at the negotiation table!
Sometimes the best weapon we have to avoid a strike is to send a strong message with a high strike vote.
A strong yes vote can shorten negotiation time and can lead to a better outcome.
Our goal is not to go on strike, but to achieve a good collective agreement, which will improve our teaching conditions and the learning conditions of our students. In order to achieve that, we need to prepare for a strike, and be prepared to go on a strike if we have to.
Not necessarily. Our intention is to meet the representatives of the university administration at the bargaining table to reach a settlement that is beneficial to our members and to students. We are taking measures to avoid a strike by putting pressure on the administration to bargain and reach a settlement.
One of the measures is taking a strike mandate vote.
Another is a petition and strategies that both members and students can participate in (see our page “Help Us to Avoid a Strike” and “How can you help” in the FAQ). A strike can be avoided if the representatives of the university administration are given the authority by senior administration and the Board of Trustees to address our key priorities. If the Brock community puts pressure on these parties to bargain a fair deal, we will be in a better position to avoid a strike.
If Unit 1 goes on strike, it means withholding of their work and establishing picket lines adjacent to the Main Campus. We establish picket lines where they make the most sense – where the administration is located. A labour stoppage is a lawful activity that unionized workers can choose to engage in to protect their working conditions.
We will continue to try to negotiate an agreement that both provides quality working conditions and job security and improves the learning environment that we are very much invested in. In order for a strike to end, a new agreement would have to be reached and ratified by both sides.
There will be delays for anyone who wants to get onto the Brock Campus, but there is no obligation for many campus workers and students to actually cross a picket line. Some labour unions on campus have collective agreements protections that allow them to choose not to cross a picket line. Likewise, students are protected by Senate regulations in Brock’s Faculty Handbook.
Senate policy dictates that students cannot be required to cross a picket line, and they cannot face academic penalties for refusing to cross a picket line. Students who choose to not cross a picket line can apply for extensions on assignments, and can even request that material taught be retaught, or be excluded from examination.
If a strike or lockout were to occur, the duration of a strike would depend on a number of factors. These include the university administration’s response to a job action and support for us from the Brock community. Support can include putting pressure on the administration to bargain and settle with us, telling friends and family about what is happening, respecting picket lines, and coming to a picket line to support us.
There is an old adage, the longer the picket line the shorter the strike. It refers to the power of numbers on the picket line — the more workers engaged picketing, the greater pressure on the employer to negotiate a fair deal for the workers.
There was a strike in 2012 involving CUPE 4207 – Unit 3, and it lasted for two weeks; the very first strike in Brock’s history. This strike was due to what appeared to be a disagreement or miscommunication between different decision-makers in the university administration. What was agreed upon between ESL Instructors and the university administration’s representatives at the bargaining table and what members of the Board of Trustees actually wanted their representatives to do were quite different. Instead of accepting responsibility for their internal disagreements, the Board of Trustees wanted the ESL Instructors to agree to more concessions. The Union filed a complaint of “Bargaining in Bad Faith” under the Ontario Labour Relations Act, which was retracted after we successfully bargained an agreement with the university’s representatives – this time with better communication from the Board of Trustees.
No. Wages are suspended for the duration of a labour action. This means we will not receive pay from the university until the strike is concluded. Wages and negotiated pay increase are then paid retroactively to members when strike is over and normal work activity resumes.
According to CUPE strike regulations, there is a compensation for lost wages for members carrying out strike-related duties. The compensation (so called strike pay) is $300 for 20 hours of strike-related activity* a week. This means that a member signs up for 20 hours (4 hours each day of the 5 day week) of picketing a week. Strike compensation is paid weekly to active members by the union.
The local covers strike pay from our strike fund for the first four calendar days since the beginning of the strike. On the fifth calendar day, strike pay is covered by CUPE National, and remains so for the duration of the strike. We would picket Monday to Friday, hours are yet to be determined.
In the couple of weeks leading to a strike deadline, the local will make available a picket line shift schedule for members to sign up. Depending on the number of picket lines (there were two in 2012 when Unit 3 struck), there will be 4 hour shifts for each picket line.
The strength of the labour action is measured by the length of the picket line – the more workers actively support their union the shorter the labour action. Workers can achieve improvements to their working conditions only when united in purpose.
*this chiefly includes picketing – walking on the picket line, distributing informational leaflets on the strike and bargaining, and talking to drivers. There are alternate strike-related duties for members who experience difficulty standing on their feet for four hours.
At this time we ask that you send e-mails to the Brock administration to tell them to negotiate a good and fair contract with Unit 1 – academic workers who teach courses (Contract Instructors), who teach in seminars and labs (Teaching Assistants and Lab Demonstrators) and who mark and grade assignments and coordinate large courses (Marke/Graders and Course Coordinators).
More support from the community for a negotiated settlement is one way to help resolve bargaining issues without the need for a strike.
You can contact the following people: