After more than 40 months of bargaining, two Concordia University unions – the Concordia University Union of Support Staff – Technical Sector (CUUSS-TS) and the Concordia University Library Employees’ Union (CULEU) – negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement with the university administration in the beginning of September.
Prior to this new collective agreement, the CUUSS-TS and the CULEU had been working without a contract for more than four years.
In addition, on September 17, the United Steel Workers union from Concordia’s Loyola campus and Sir George Williams campus signed collective agreements after working without contracts for four and five years respectively.
The Daily was unable to reach CUUSS-TS or CULEU by press time, but spoke with other negotiators from Concordia unions still in the midst of negotiations. More than half of the 13 Concordia University unions are still without contracts, but are currently in negotiation with the administration.
David Douglas, president of the Concordia University Part-Time Faculty Association (CUPFA) – one of the unions currently negotiating with the administration – told The Daily that he was informed in September that the university’s administration was changing its negotiation team. In an attempt to bring the issue more directly under the control of the university’s new office of Faculty Relations, the chief negotiator was replaced.
“They were changing their focus for the negations. Gone is the approach to completely re-write our present collective agreement. In its place, an expressed desire to redirect the negotiations and limit the scope of articles under discussion […] to concentrate on smaller number of central issues and seek resolution on these items,” Douglas told The Daily.
Patrice Blais, CUPFA’s new Chief Negotiator, welcomed this novel approach. “We feel there is a great potential to resolve our negotiations in a timely manner if we pursue a limited number of articles,” said Blais.
Concordia University did not comment on the administration’s view of the ongoing negotiations, according to Christine Mota, spokesperson for the university. She did, however, note that they “will continue to negotiate in good faith.”
When asked about the future of their negotiations, Douglas said, “These issues will not be easy, and we have considerable work to do ahead of us. Looking forward, we are cautiously optimistic.”
As for McGill, there are five accredited unions representing 13 bargaining units. Out of these units, four do not have contracts but are in the negotiating process; the rest all have written-out contracts. Unions and their contracts protect members from low wages and a lack of job security.
There are also two associations on campus for non-unionized staff, where membership is entirely voluntary. Unlike most Quebec universities, McGill faculty members are not unionized. Management-level non-academic staff also do not currently have a union, restricting their collective bargaining power.
Unions have struggled in the past with McGill. Many contract negotiations have been forced to go through provincial arbitrators. As well, during a strike by McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) members in 2011, McGill secured multiple injunctions against MUNACA in an attempt to stop on-campus demonstrations such as picketing.
With files from Michelle Blassou and Margo Budline.