Q: What is job action?
A: Job action is any action taken to disrupt the operation of an employer in order to pressure the employer to meet a particular demand. It can take many forms, but most commonly looks like a strike. Job action is not the goal of any union, but it is an effective tool for improving the lives of workers.
Q: What’s the difference between a strike and a lockout?
A: A strike is initiated by the employees and is when workers withhold their work during a labour dispute with the aim of demonstrating the collective concerns and resolve of the bargaining unit. A lockout is initiated by the employer and is a denial of employment during a labour dispute.
A strike is not an end itself, but rather a means to obtaining a fair and equitable collective agreement.
Q: Will there be a strike?
A: Although no union wants to be forced into a position where a strike/lockout will occur, MUNFA would not be meeting its duty to represent and advance the interests of its members if we did not prepare for the possibility of a strike.
A union that is prepared for a strike sends a strong message to the employer about the unity and conviction of members of the bargaining unit. Often, the more prepared a union is for a strike, the less likely one is to take place.
Q: When will we know for sure if there will be a strike?
A: MUNFA’s Negotiating Committee is providing regular updates after each round of bargaining. We will circulate information via our listserv and on our website as soon as we know more.
Currently, MUNFA and the employer are involved in conciliation, with the next round scheduled for September 13 and 14, 2018. If the parties ultimately reach an impasse at conciliation, the government-appointed conciliator, at his discretion, will write a report to the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour. This report triggers a 15 day countdown for the parties to be in position to take a strike vote or initiate a lock-out.
Q: What is a strike vote?
A: A strike vote is a vote taken among employees in a unionized workplace to authorize a strike. If successful, it provides the union with a strike mandate.
A strike vote is NOT a vote on whether or not to actually call a strike. Nor does it mean an immediate halt to negotiations. Rather, it is a vote by the membership on whether to give the MUNFA Executive the authority to call a strike if and when the Executive concludes that such a step is necessary to reach an acceptable agreement. A majority vote is sufficient to pass a strike vote. The stronger the vote, the less likely a strike may be, as it alerts the employer to the collective strength and resolve of its membership. In fact, a YES vote with a strong mandate is often the best way to secure a fair and equitable collective agreement without a strike.
Q: Why is it important to participate in a strike vote?
A: The most effective strike mandate vote has a high turnout (the proportion of members who vote) and a strong strike mandate (the proportion who vote yes). A high turnout together with a strong strike mandate sends a strong signal to the employer that we are serious about our proposals and positions.
A high turnout is important because it shows that a wide cross-section of the membership is engaged and mobilized about the bargaining process. A strong yes vote is also important because the union is strongest when it is united. The employer will be much more fearful of a strike – and more likely to negotiate seriously – if they know that the vote represents a real threat, and not just a bluff.
A strong strike mandate vote does not necessarily mean we will strike, but it does indicate that we are ready to do so if necessary. Often a strong strike mandate alone is sufficient to get the employer to take the union seriously in negotiations. Indeed, very often faculty associations achieve agreement with their employers in the period between a strike vote and the time a strike would begin.
Q: What would a strike mean for me?
A: The last time MUNFA was on strike was in 2000. Members remained on the picket lines for two weeks. In that time, MUNFA members participated in various strike duties (picketing, support at strike headquarters, transportation of picketers, etc.). In addition, many of our colleagues at universities across the country participated in fly-in pickets, offering support and solidarity to our own members on the ground.
Though the weather was often unpredictable, ASMs on the picket lines and at strike headquarters were able to keep morale high and frequently commented on how well organized the strike was.
Despite the university administration locking out all MUNFA members after the initiation of the strike, ASMs requiring access to research projects that would be irreparably harmed if left unattended were granted access to campus. Also, despite the strike, there was no need to extend the academic term.
Ultimately, the resolve of MUNFA members on the picket lines secured significant gains at the bargaining table.
Q: What steps has MUNFA taken to prepare for a strike?
A: MUNFA’s Negotiating Committee continues to approach the bargaining table prepared to negotiate and with hope of avoiding a strike; however, it is important that we prepare for all eventualities. To that end, MUNFA has struck a Job Action Committee, which is now in the process of securing a Strike Headquarters off-campus.
MUNFA’s Executive has also received a commitment of financial support from the CAUT Defence Fund in the event of a strike or lockout. This includes a grant to the Association which will cover members’ strike pay (which is non-taxable) at a minimum rate of $88 per calendar day. In addition, the Fund voted to provide MUNFA with 6-month interest-free loans to cover premiums for insured benefits, such as group life, disability and health, should they be disrupted by a strike or lock-out, and to extend a 6-month interest-free line of credit to help with strike expenses.
In addition to the support available through the CAUT Defence Fund, MUNFA has a sizeable Strike Fund which can be used to cover expenses in the event of job action.
Q: What are the main issues?
A: MUNFA’s bargaining team has highlighted a number of key issues in their regular Negotiating News updates. Issues that are of high-priority are:
- Post-tenure review;
- Intellectual Property;
- Banked time;
- Contingent Faculty;
- Equity in Promotion & Tenure;
- Pay equity;
- Counselling Faculty;
- Parental leave; and
- Domestic violence leave.
Q: What can I do now?
A: We encourage ASMs to discuss the issues with their colleagues and to consider the significance of a strong strike mandate.
Continue to check your email and the MUNFA website for updates on Negotiations. Contact your MUNFA liaison or the MUNFA office with any questions or concerns. Be sure to send us your non-Memorial contact information to ensure you stay connected during potential job action. This information can be directed to MUNFA’s Membership Engagement and Communications Coordinator, Travis Perry (email@example.com), and will be securely stored in the MUNFA office and only used if necessary.
Q: How can I stay informed and get involved?
A: You can follow MUNFA on Twitter (@MUNFaculty), like our official Facebook page (MUNFaculty), or read bargaining updates in our Negotiating News on the MUNFA website.
Q: Who should I contact if I have additional questions?
A: If you have additional questions, please contact the MUNFA Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 864-8642.