The Concordia University Part-Time Faculty Association (CUPFA) voted for an unlimited strike mandate at a special General Assembly held Nov. 4. The vote follows unsuccessful negotiations with Concordia’s administration over a new collective agreement.
CUPFA’s former collective agreement with Concordia expired at the end of August. Since then, CUPFA representatives have met with university representatives more than 10 times.
Although the association is not currently on strike, the strike mandate means that CUPFA can now legally use pressure tactics such as work stoppages, sit-ins, and demonstrations. CUPFA President Maria Peluso also has the power to call a strike under the strike mandate, although she has stated that she will not do so without consulting CUPFA members.
Peluso expressed concern over the Concordia administration’s demands at the bargaining table. She said that the university is concentrating on clauses that would give them more control of professional development funds—funds that allow faculty members to complete research. The university also wants CUPFA to call itself a union, rather than an association.
“We can’t understand why they have been so difficult with these normative clauses,” Peluso said. “It doesn’t cost them any money. If you want to argue about my salary or cost of living, okay, we can argue about that, but what the university has presented is not salary.”
According to CUPFA Chair of Communications David Douglas, Concordia still hasn’t implemented or respected parts of the last agreement. Peluso noted that CUPFA does not intend to alter much of the previous agreement, but that its concern lies in Concordia’s treatment of the previous agreement, and the lack of experienced academics on the university’s side of the bargaining table.
“It took us seven years to get that collective agreement that we currently have, and they are not respecting it,” Peluso said. “How do you want me to have confidence in the next collective agreement when the current collective agreement … is not even respected? We are certainly not waiting [another] seven years.”
Negotiations are ongoing between Concordia and CUPFA. Peluso expressed hope that the university will respond positively to the unlimited strike mandate.
“Nobody really wants a strike,” Peluso said. “We are prepared to do that only because we are so angry at the university. We don’t want to hurt anybody—especially our students.”
“Every single bargaining entity at Concordia is in the same boat,” she added. “There is something pathologically wrong with how labour relations are conducted [at Concordia], in particular with regards to faculty.”
Christine Mota, Concordia’s Media Relations Director, said that Concordia’s administration does not comment on negotiations while they are still in progress.
“We will only say that we continue to negotiate,” Mota said. “The goal is to find a satisfactory solution for everybody.”