The local Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 4207 Unit 3 – representing English as a Second Language (ESL) Instructors – may be striking once again.
In 2012, CUPE 4207 Unit 3 negotiated a first collective agreement with Brock University. The negotiations were centred on job security, benefits, wages and workload. A tentative agreement was reached, but CUPE chose to strike for 10 days until both sides finally ratified the agreement.
According to Dan Crow, President of CUPE 4207, the union ratified the initial agreement, but it wasn’t until 10 days later their employer ratified the agreement stipulating several changes.
“Basically…they wanted to take out some of the language that had been part of the agreement that we ratified,” said Crow.
Since the collective agreement reached in 2012 expired on July 6, 2014, the University and CUPE 4207 Unit 3 have been working towards a new agreement, to no avail.
Now, as the Mar. 17 bargaining deadline looms, the union’s priorities at the bargaining table include job security, maintenance of high education standards and equitable wages. These proposals are intended to ensure that the ESL program is effectively run with high quality instruction, benefitting both students and instructors.
“Our working environment is the students’ learning environment,” said Crow. “Achieving a good collective agreement will improve both.”
Between June and September 2014, the union and the University met three times. When it was clear to the Union that the employer refused to discuss the issues they felt were important, they filed for conciliation. As a result, the Ministry of Labour appointed an officer to assist both parties to reach a new collective agreement.
Both parties have met an additional three times at conciliation. After failing to resolve all of the issues that were brought to the table, the union requested a “no board report”, which is a legal document that sets a deadline for a strike or a lockout. On Feb. 28, the “no board report” was issued, meaning that the appointment conciliation officer did not believe that a board would aid in the resolution.
According to the union’s website, CUPE 4207 Unit 3 initially requested a strike deadline of Mar. 21 at 12:01 a.m.. However, Brock insisted on an earlier deadline, resulting in a final date of Mar. 17 at 12:01 a.m.
On Mar. 14, both parties will meet again to try and come to an agreement. Crow remains hopeful in spite of the looming deadline.
“Our proposals are reasonable and necessary to ensuring a good teaching and learning environment in ESL Services. It is our hope that the University also wants to come to a negotiated settlement, and will come willing to discuss the issues that we know are important,” said Crow.
The University also claims to be “committed to continued talks with the Union to reach a renewal collective agreement” according to the official statement on the University’s Outlook website.However, Brock has previously been accused of negotiating in bad faith. CUPE formally filed charges with the Ontario Labour Relations Board against Brock University during the strike in 2012.