Here are some of my own thoughts in reaction to yesterday’s Strike Authorization Vote, in which 68% of voters gave the CAAT-A bargaining team a mandate to call a strike if management continues its steadfast refusal to negotiate the demands that have been presented by faculty.
In no particular order:
- I have to assume that the result of the vote is a surprise to the College Employer Council. Presumably, the Council’s rhetoric of “the Union should let the membership vote on our offer” was motivated by an opinion that management’s offer was sufficient for a majority of the membership, despite the complete lack of anything addressing staffing issues, workload issues, issues affecting counsellors, issues affecting librarians, issues affecting Partial-Load job security, and issues related to equal pay for equal work for Partial-Load faculty. The Council’s August 16 Academic Bargaining Update reads, “it is expected that the offer will provide the foundation for an early settlement.” I have no reason to believe that the Council was lying about that expectation, and the strike vote outcome indicates that those expectations and reality were considerably out of line.
- The most recent strike vote, in January 2010, saw 57% of faculty voting yes, and that was after management had unilaterally imposed Terms and Conditions of employment, in an action that more or less gave the entire bargaining process the middle finger. Thursday’s vote saw 10% more support for a strike mandate, in a less provocative context, suggesting a significant change in the opinions of the Union membership within the last seven years — one that I suspect the Employer is ill-equipped to address.
- The primary issue around the 2010 strike vote was workload; the major issues in this round of bargaining are far more fundamental and structural. The notion that Ontario’s public College system is in a state of fundamental crisis is clearly gaining more traction among faculty than in previous rounds.
- Further evidence of an increased level of activism among the Union rank-and-file is the fact that this is the first time ever, I believe, that a strike mandate has been given prior to the expiry of the Collective Agreement. By way of comparison, 2010’s strike mandate was given over four months after the expiry of the Collective Agreement, and some weeks after Terms & Conditions had been unilaterally imposed by the Employer. It’s not simply that the current Union bargaining team is more proactive than previous ones (although a greater understanding of the practical impact of the changes to bargaining effected by 2008 legislation may be at work); also at work seems to be a dramatically reduced confidence on the part of the Union membership that the Employer will bargain constructively prior to the expiry of the Collective Agreement, if no strike mandate is in place.
- Further to that last point, the Employer’s communications throughout the last six weeks has basically stated, “We stopped negotiating on August 1st when we presented our monetary offer. It doesn’t matter which way you vote; we refuse to consider negotiating the Union’s top demands.” It’s hard to imagine a position that could have better proven the Union bargaining team’s claim that a strike mandate was required to compel the Employer’s team to start an actual process of negotiations.
Next up, some responses and some from contributors (feel free to add yours, at firstname.lastname@example.org).