Negotiations between university administration and the union that represents teaching assistants and part-time instructors are at a halt as they wait for a government-appointed conciliator.Talks stalled Friday, Nov. 2 when administration representative Harold Leece, of Brock University’s department of human resources, left after 22 minutes. At the time, Leece said he felt the union’s demand for a wage offer before negotiating other aspects of the agreement was a threat to walk away from the bargaining table.
The union requested a conciliator the same day, and the two sides have been waiting since.
Kevin McCabe, part of the bargaining team for CUPE local 4207, which represents the workers, says that the appointment is supposed to take two to three weeks, but may take as long as five.
“We’re not holding our breath,” he said.
Once negotiations resume, he has no idea how long they will continue.
“We are quite a ways apart … If we start to move on a few issues, it may take quite a while.”
It is this uncertainty that has students, and their representatives, frustrated.
Duncan Small, president of the Brock University Students Union (BUSU), says that the council had many concerns about the negotiation process.
“Our biggest concern is that this is in limbo — we don’t know where this is heading,” he said. “Not knowing is the worst part.”
CUPE representatives McCabe and Tom Craig, the union’s president, made a presentation to the Brock University Students’ Administrative Council (BUSAC) at its Nov. 13 meeting. Small asked the two why the union hasn’t kept the students’ union up-to-date on negotiations.
“Going and talking with them [the council] was our first response,” said McCabe, who also said that he hopes to establish a liaison between the union and BUSAC. The BUSU executive has asked representatives from the university administration to speak to council at the meeting on Nov. 26.
Meanwhile, the union will be setting up information tables throughout the school to inform students about their concerns.
“The point we really want to get out,” says McCabe, “is that the more support we get — from the students, the students’ union — the more likely we are to get a serious offer [from the administration].”