UWindsor President Sends Letter To Faculty Association

Friday July 4th, 2014

Posted at 3:09pm

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As negotiations continue between the Windsor University Faculty Association and University Administration, the president of the university issued a letter to all members of the Windsor University Faculty Association.

The letter reads as follows:

I am writing to provide some important information about the efforts currently underway to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with WUFA. It is now more than five months since my January 28th public address when I expressed to the campus community the desire going forward to have new collective agreements in place at the time the existing ones expire. This was done with the goal of breaking the persistent pattern of negotiations carrying on through the summer, and bargaining groups either threatening or taking strike action in the fall. This is a pattern that causes tremendous anxiety for students, their families and the greater community. While this pattern may represent the tried and true tradition of collective bargaining and forcing an employer’s hand, and unions might think it appropriate to threaten strike action at a time when it puts the most pressure on the employer, it is a pattern that the University cannot continue to quietly accept.

In my January 28th public address, and in my letter to you of April 8th, 2014, I identified two matters we planned to take to the bargaining table. First, in response to the changing fiscal realities facing universities across Ontario, and the public request of the provincial Government, to date all employees of the University, except WUFA members, have taken at least two years with zero percent base increase to their compensation. WUFA members are now being asked to do the same. As well, and again in response to our own realities and clear Government urging, it was also stated that there continues to be a need to look at funding of pension plans. In my letter I summarized that while the Employee Plan has full cost sharing (50%-50%) between the employer and employees of the $7.8M total annual funding that goes into the plan, the Faculty Plan total contribution costs of $19.7M are currently shared 31% by plan members and 69% by the employer. We need to work towards a greater level of member contributions to the Faculty plan. We have made offers consistent with these objectives.

We continue to be advised by WUFA’s bargaining team that it is their steadfast view that the university does not face a financial challenge, and that they should not have to do as all other employees have done. In contrast to the position of WUFA’s bargaining team, our fiscal challenge, as evidenced by $43M of realignments over the past six years and reductions in faculty and staff numbers, is real. It is a challenge being felt across the provincial and national post secondary system, and it is a challenge clearly articulated in the provincial policy on differentiation across the university and college sector. It is also a challenge resulting from a new provincial tuition fee framework that sees a reduction from 5% to 3% in the annual overall rate of tuition fee increases that provincial institutions are permitted to charge domestic students.

It also remains the position of WUFA’s bargaining team that the University is diverting money that could be used on salaries and wages toward construction of new buildings. This is simply untrue. There is in fact a difference between one time capital expenditures and on-going operating budgets. Infrastructure funding from governments and donors cannot be used to supplement the operating budget.

The University believes it has taken reasonable steps to achieve a collective agreement. We have sought conciliation, and subsequently mediation. After many weeks of bargaining between the University’s bargaining team and WUFA’s bargaining team, we are at an impasse.

As of 12:01 AM this morning, the University is in a position to lock out the bargaining unit, and WUFA is in a position to strike if it receives a strike mandate from its members. In addition, as of today, the University is in a position to alter the terms and conditions of employment, since legally there no longer is a collective agreement in effect.

The University finds itself in a position where WUFA’s bargaining team has yet to acknowledge the very real fiscal situations we face, and therefore is now taking steps to draw sharper attention of the situation to all members. In an effort to achieve a fair collective agreement in a timely manner, please be advised that unless we achieve a collective agreement by 11:59 PM on Monday, July 7th, the University will no longer honour the following provisions of the expired collective agreement commencing at 12:01 AM on July 8th, 2014:

i) The University will no longer make employer contributions to the Money Purchase Plan component of the Faculty Pension Plan (Article D of collective agreement);
ii) The University will cease to pay the premiums for all health insurance benefit coverages for WUFA members described in Article F of the collective agreement, including the Green Shield Supplemental Hospitalization Benefit Plan and Green Shield Extended Health Benefit Plan;
iii) The Grievance and Arbitration provisions in Article 39 of the collective agreement will no longer be in effect;
iv) The University will cease to honour requests for reimbursement of Professional Development and Membership Dues described in Article I of the collective agreement;
v) The University will cease collecting union dues from members and forwarding those dues to WUFA (Article 4:01 and 4:02).

These are difficult steps to take. We remain hopeful that it will be possible to achieve a collective agreement that reflects the fiscal reality of the University of Windsor, and that is not one that perpetuates the notion that somehow the University can always find money to give in to demands and provide year over year pay increases like those summarized in my April 8th letter. The University has a responsibility to its students to not let the negotiations drift over the summer.

The University of course remains at the bargaining table and continues to be ready to bargain a reasonable and responsible collective agreement.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Wildeman
President and Vice-Chancellor

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