This week, collective bargaining talks between Queen’s University and its faculty will head to conciliation, after the Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA) voted in favour of a strike mandate. Back in December, QUFA members voted 82 per cent in favour of a strike following several failed rounds of negotiations between the two parties.
Before faculty members hit the picket lines, with QUFA set to enter a legal strike position by early February, the two sides will take part in conciliation this month in a final attempt to reach an agreement. According to QUFA president Jordan Morelli, Queen’s representatives have been “unwilling” to “reach a compromise and find common ground” throughout the negotiations.
“Our hope is that the conciliator will help with that, to put some pressure on [Queen’s],” said Morelli, who characterized the University’s position as “disrespectful” throughout the contract talks. “They’ve simply just been saying ‘no’ to most of our proposals. They haven’t given us a lot of explanations of what they don’t like about it. There’s not really any room to manoeuvre or… to compromise, [or] to negotiate if all you get is a ‘no,’ and no explanation of what the issue is.”
Morelli said it has been difficult for his side to make changes to their requests. “There’s no way to, you know, try to modify our proposal, to get it to be more in line with something that would address the concerns.”
Should the two sides be unable to reach a deal during this month’s conciliation, Morelli noted his members have sent a “strong strike mandate.” “If the university doesn’t come to the table and isn’t prepared to… work collegially to reach a compromise position on proposals, then our members have indicated that they’re prepared, overwhelmingly, to go on strike,” he stated.
In terms of its demands, QUFA’s main proposals include “improv[ing] the path to security for adjuncts,” as well as “improv[ing] equity language and processes.”
“We came in with a lot of very thoughtful proposals that we thought would make the university just a better place for people to work, that would improve job security for adjuncts who teach over 40 per cent of all courses at Queen’s… and make it easier for people from equity deserving groups to come to Queen’s and stay at Queens,” Morelli noted.
“Most of what we’ve been asking for this has been non-monetary things that will just make the university a better place to work,” added the QUFA president.
Where issues surrounding diversity and inclusion are concerned, Morelli argued the university’s position at the bargaining table differs from statements it has made publicly.
“I don’t understand the university’s position because a lot of what they’re saying at the bargaining table, the positions that they’re putting forward or what they’re rejecting, go against the things that they [say] publicly,” he explained. “You can’t say ‘no’, not [to] those kinds of proposals, and then, at the same time, say [you] value diversity and inclusion.”
Specific proposals in the QUFA bargaining documents which have yet to be agreed upon include “expand the definition of ‘family’ in employment equity considerations,” and “provide training for Heads on bias in faculty evaluation as part of Department Head orientation.”
Despite the two sides being unable to come to an agreement, there has been some movement on issues surrounding the working conditions of librarians and archivists, as the university has agreed to a tentative package on those issues specifically. “Library and archives have [seen] pretty good progress, where the parties [worked] together and managed to compromise and find an agreement,” said Morelli.
Following multiple requests for comment, a representative from Queen’s University directed Kingstonist to an official update posted to the school’s labour news webpage, which the university issued on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022:
“The Minister of Labour has appointed a conciliator to assist the parties’ negotiations. Conciliation is anticipated to begin on or about January 17th. During conciliation, either party may request that a No-Board report be issued. The conciliator is required to relay the request to the Minister of Labour, and the parties are then in a legal strike/lock-out position on the 17th day after the Minister issues the No-Board Report. Consequently, QUFA could be in lawful strike position by early February 2023. This does not mean that a strike or lock-out will necessarily occur.”
Kingstonist will continue to follow this story.