Faculty strike possible following conciliation request

Faculty association brings vote for strike to the bargaining table

A classroom black board reads "NO CLASS"
Conciliation is not unusual in the bargaining process, but a strike isn’t out of the question.

A strike vote has been placed on the bargaining table by the Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA) after difficulties coming to a new collective agreement with the University. 

After the University and QUFA couldn’t agree upon several tenets of the new collective agreement — including the New Budget Model and Queen’s Custodial Services — the University filed for conciliation at the beginning of July.

This involves the University or the involved union requesting that the Ontario Ministry of Labour appoint a conciliator who is brought into bargaining meetings as a neutral third-party to resolve disagreements. 

In the July QUFA Voices publication, outgoing President Diane Beauchemin wrote that the conciliation request came as a shock to the QUFA. 

“Unfortunately, the [Queen’s] Administration has decided to file for conciliation out of the blue, despite the progress we have made at the bargaining table,” Beauchemin wrote.

Beauchemin wrote that she was skeptical of the timing of the conciliation request. “Is it a coincidence,” she wrote, “that this filing happened immediately following the annual retreat of the Board of Trustees?” 

Each year, the Board of Trustees and the University Senate leave on a retreat to discuss issues facing Queen’s and set goals for the upcoming academic year. 

Beauchemin drew parallels between the call for conciliation at Queen’s and a similar negotiation at the University of Windsor last year.

“Once in conciliation, the Windsor Administration filed for a “no board” report and, 17 days later, imposed terms and conditions because the Windsor University Faculty Association had not taken a strike vote,” Beauchemin wrote in Voices.

A no-board report is a document issued by a conciliator if they believe the parties at odds aren’t in a place where agreement is possible.

The University and QUFA can both request that a no-board report be filed during negotiations. 

According to Beauchemin’s piece, QUFA promised that a no-board report from Queen’s would prompt a strike vote for its members to prevent Queen’s from imposing hastily drawn conditions on its employees. 

“A majority strike vote would not mean that there would be a strike,” she wrote. “Just that job action would take place if needed.” 

The new QUFA President, Lynne Hanson, declined to comment, and said she had been cautioned against making public statements during the bargaining process. Beauchemin also declined to comment on negotiations when The Journal contacted her in June.

Despite the QUFA’s concerns, Michael Fraser, Vice-Principal of University Relations, said conciliation is a regular step in the bargaining process.

“A request for conciliation is a common occurrence during collective bargaining,” he said.

However, Fraser said conciliation often comes before strike action, and as a precaution both the University and the QUFA are working on contingency plans in case strike action is taken. 

“Conciliation must be completed before the union can be in a position to engage in a legal strike, or the university can be in a legal position to lock-out employees in the bargaining unit,” Fraser said.

Greg Long, the conciliator appointed by the Ministry of Labour, was brought into collective bargaining meetings beginning July 15 and 17. He is set to continue between July 27 and 28.

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