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Concordia’s full-time faculty union ready to strike

In the midst of difficult and on-going negotiations with the administration, the Concordia University Faculty Association (CUFA)—the union that represents all full-time faculty members at Concordia, including professors and librarians—voted 74 per cent in favour of a strike mandate on Mar. 9. The mandate allows CUFA to go on strike with 48-hours notice.

CUFA has been negotiating its collective agreement with Concordia for the past 15 months. The vote for a strike mandate is the furthest CUFA has ever gone towards a strike while negotiating their collective agreement with the university.

CUFA President Lucie Lequin  expressed frustration over the progress of the negotiations and said that the union will evaluate whether or not it will go on strike following meetings this week.

“It takes two to tango,” Lequin said. “In a way, we are not deciding when the strike will take place. In a way, the administration is deciding that.”

Lequin noted that if the Concordia administration makes no concessions this week, a strike would become an appealing option for the union. The union’s actions depend on how the administration handles their demands on non-monetary issues and monetary issues alike, according to Lequin.

One of the non-financial issues the union is most concerned about is the workload of people hired by Concordia on “extended-term” and “limited-term” contracts. These are non-permanent faculty members most of whom have three-year contracts and teach courses at the university. CUFA wants the university to reconsider how many courses these workers have to teach in a year.

“Some teach seven courses in a year, and we feel that is too much if they are different courses,” Lequin said. “We would like to do something for them, so they can have a fair workload.”

Lequin noted that Concordia has offered no compromise on that issue.

Another non-monetary aspect involved in the negotiations over the collective agreement deals with the autonomy of Concordia librarians, Lequin explained. Librarians are contractually obligated to complete research while also performing their library duties. However, CUFA wants librarians to have more decision-making power over what hours  they conduct their research.

CUFA is also asking for a 2.2 per cent salary increase each year for five years, which is how long the collective agreement would last.

“We are not expecting our way on all these issues,” Lequin said. “Of course, we are willing to move, but [the administration] also [has] to be willing to move. It’s a give and take [situation].”

Chris Mota, director of media relations at Concordia, said that the administration cannot say much while the negotiations are still ongoing. She noted that a government conciliator was brought into the negotiations in December. She also said that the administration made its latest offer to CUFA on Mar. 1.

“Concordia deposited a global offer of settlement for the renewal of the collective agreement with the Concordia University Faculty Association [CUFA],” Mota said.

Lequin said that she has not seen any tensions arising on campus between professors and students as a result of the vote.

Concordia Students’ Union (CSU) Vice-President External Simon-Pierre Lauzon said the only informaiton he had is that a potential strike would not affect students, referring to a letter CSU received from  the CUFA executive.

“Our students are our #1 commitment and we will do everything we can to avoid disrupting classes and delaying the submission of grades,” the letter reads.

“Unfortunately, given the bullying tactics of the Employer at the bargaining table and Concordia’s poor history of labour relations in general, we may have no choice but to resort to job action,” the letter continues. “We sincerely hope this does not come to pass but it a possibility.”

Lauzon said the CSU plans to meet with Lequin but this meeting has not yet occurred.

 

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