Bargaining is well underway. VIUFA’s bargaining team has been meeting with the Employer’s team two afternoons per week since December, with few exceptions. Each side introduced its proposal package at the beginning of bargaining, and detailed discussions of individual proposals are now in progress.
We have tabled specific language for many of our major proposals, including for workload equity, initial salary placement procedure, evaluation of instructional faculty, overtime provisions for non-instructional faculty, scheduling/timetabling, allocation of releases, benefits for non-regular faculty, salary placement for Indigenous faculty, and more. There are many more proposals that remain to be tabled, including benefits improvements, addressing Chair workloads, and recognizing a wider range of activities in calculation of workload.
We have discussed many of the Employer’s interests at the bargaining table, but we have not yet heard their detailed proposals on some big issues, including class size and the possible introduction of TAs. We understand that all VIU cost items must first be vetted by PSEA and this element of bargaining adds a layer of complexity in forming proposals and in the actual bargaining of these proposals.
The Employer has acknowledged that some of the issues we’ve raised are ones they also want to resolve. For example, the Employer recognizes the workload inequity that exists across instructional areas: a full instructional workload is 24 weekly contact hours over two terms in some areas and 32 in others. The Employer acknowledges this is unfair and deserves to be fixed. Through several rounds of bargaining and two joint committees struck to study the problem, the University has invested a lot of time and effort into understanding the problem, and we’ve heard at the bargaining table that they share our view that a solution is overdue. We’re encouraged that the Employer’s bargaining team is keen to work with us to make workloads more equitable. VIUFA’s Bargaining Team is firmly committed to achieving equity without increasing workload in any area.
The two sides also share a common desire to protect retiree and other former employee access to VIU infrastructure and services, such as library services, email and computer networks. Indeed, these privileges are already being extended to former employees, including retirees, even though the Collective Agreement only guarantees them for former non-regular employees.
We believe that the Employer values the ongoing nature of members’ engagement in VIU’s community past retirement, and that the Employer can best support its commitment to this community by enshrining these benefits in the Collective Agreement, so members will be apprised of these benefits, and so that any future changes will be subject to agreement of the parties. We were disappointed to hear the Employer’s position on this matter: even though there would be no change in practice or in cost to the university, we cannot enshrine these benefits into the Collective Agreement without giving up something else of equivalent cost.
Proposals needlessly treated as cost items, meaning they will be counted towards the financial cost of the Collective Agreement, even when they don’t require any new spending on the part of the University, is another example of a challenge we face at the bargaining table. Naturally, many of VIUFA’s proposals will cost money to implement, and there is limited money available, so the more we can achieve without increasing costs to the university, the better. Many of our proposals seek to protect members’ rights by enshrining an existing, sometimes longstanding, practice in the Collective Agreement, with the goal of ensuring that the practice will be applied equitably and transparently, and to protect members from future unilateral changes to the practice. We hoped to achieve these gains at no cost, since there are no new costs to the University in continuing their current practice. However, if there is any cost associated with the practice, the Employer regards the proposal as a cost item.
In other cases, VIUFA seeks to incentivize keeping practices the same. For example, VIUFA wishes to affirm that teaching in one mode at a time is the default by introducing a new cost for multi-modal delivery. Even though the Employer can avoid incurring these costs by simply keeping practices as they are, they regard these proposals as cost items.
For some of the unresolved items listed above, we are waiting for the Employer to provide information that will help us determine the cost of implementing our proposals. New provisions in the Collective Agreement will be funded through new investments from the government designated for that purpose. In other words, the provisions we bargain do not directly impact the University’s bottom line since they do not come out of the University’s operating budget. However, the parties agree that any improvements in working conditions and services will help members professionally, help the University attract the best employees, and help it best serve and attract students.
The General Wage Increase is also determined by the Province, with little to no variation from one sector to another, and no variation between different Collective Agreements within a sector. For our sector, the predetermined wage increases are 3.24% in 2022-23, 6.75% in 2023-24, and between 2% and 3% in 2024-25. The cumulative effect of these increases will result in a 12.5-13.5% salary increase by April 2024, with the biggest single increase occurring this year. The General Wage Increase will be applied retroactively back to April 2022.
The VIUFA Bargaining Team has bargaining dates identified until June 15.
Chief Bargainer, VIUFA