U of R and URFA still divided


author: john loeppky | editor-in-chief

Dark days at the U of R/Jeremy Davis


Mediation fails

As first reported by the Regina Leader-Post and CTV, The University of Regina and the University of Regina Faculty Association (URFA) have both announced that the final offer made by the University of Regina after four days of mediation has been rejected.

In Mar. 12 email Provost Thomas Chase wrote that the focus of the University of Regina was on lessening the impact on students of the labour issue.

” Throughout the negotiating process, our focus has been on students. We are striving to limit tuition and fee increases. We have tried to reach an agreement to avoid any disruption to them, classes and campus life.”

On the same day, the University of Regina published an updated version of the student FAQ that had been sent out previously. The document still characterized the negotiations as going well and spoke about the possibility of students “crossing the picket line.”

“Negotiations began in March 2018. During this time, the parties have come to agreement on a significant number of proposals. Throughout the process, the University has remained committed to bargaining in good faith and as transparently as possible. We have done so, too, with students always as our priority.”

This position was at odds with a statement published by URFA on Mar. 13, part of which stated the opposite view.

“We were disappointed, but not surprised, that University of Regina Provost Thomas Chase sent a message to the university community almost immediately following the final conciliation meeting. His message represents the administration’s positions, and the bargaining process so far, in ways that do not give the whole picture.”

URFA’s statement then presented their own fact-checking process against the Provost’s message, beginning with a direct rebuttal to Chase’s message.

“The Provost’s message misrepresents the state of the provincial economy and the correlation between the provincial economy and the University’s ability to provide competitive compensation.”

According to the data URFA presented, since the 2013-14 academic year tuition has increased by 21.1 per cent, academic staff’s salaries by 9.3 per cent (including the two proposed zero increase years), with a 22 per cent increase in out of scope salaries (this meaning non-URFA members such as academic administrators and staff).

URFA, in their statement, took issue with the comparisons Chase made with other unions on campus, rejecting them in favour of comparing URFA membership to faculty associations at other Canadian universities.

The university’s final offer statement put much of the focus on the mandate given to it by the board of governors.

“The University now feels it has reached the point where no further progress is possible. It has exhausted its monetary parameters from the Board of Governors, having put all the available money on the table, and has moved as much as it can on all other outstanding proposals. As a result, the University has chosen to present the URFA-Academic bargaining team with its ‘final offer’.”

Reaction on the faculty side has been one of disappointment.

On Twitter, Professor Tom McIntosh laid the blame at the feet of out of scope employees.

“In past 6yrs avg increases for out-of-scope employees at @UofRegina have been 1.5x to 3x greater than those for academic staff. It seems the Provost’s call for restraint doesn’t apply to everyone. If you’re looking for what drives tuition increases you might want to start here.”

McIntosh appeared to be citing another recent publication by the University of Regina focusing on the financial constraints currently facing the institution from their point of view.

“We are in challenging fiscal times. In 2017-18 the University experienced a multimillion dollar cut to its operating grant that covers the greater part of salary and benefit costs for all U of R faculty and staff. That cut has not been restored. In 2018-19, the University saw a zero per cent increase to the operating grant.”

A number of other faculty reacted in much the same way, with many pointing out the possible disruption for students.

If the University of Regina is to have a Brexit-like situation, however, nothing can happen until Mar. 28. At that point, with URFA having declined to bring the offer forward to its members, and the University refusing to budge, labour action (meaning a lockout or a strike) is available after that date, what is known as a cooling off period. The side that chooses to begin a job action must give the Ministry of Labour 48 hours notice, at which point said action can commence.

The University of Regina Students’ Union, having previously produced a statement supporting URFA have chosen to publish the documents from both sides on social media “… in an effort to keep students informed. URSU will try to keep students aware of updates on this situation as they occur.

The statements are available through the University of Regina’s human resources page and the URFA website.

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