Bargaining — Frequently Asked Questions

What is MUNFA?
What can I do?
What issues are outstanding?
What are the administration’s priorities?
Do we have a collective agreement currently in place?
Where are we in the collective bargaining process?
What is “conciliation” and what is the role of the conciliation officer?
Why have we applied for conciliation? Why did we reach an impasse?
What happens if we don’t reach a deal at conciliation?
Why is MUNFA adopting a transparent bargaining process, and what does that mean?
What is the timeline?
What are MUNFA’s top bargaining priorities?
How were MUNFA members involved in the development of these priorities?
What have we gained so far?
Is MUNFA going to go on strike? Why?

For information about the strike vote, click here.
For information for students, click here.

What is MUNFA?

The Memorial University of Newfoundland Faculty Association is the trade union representing Academic Staff Members at MUNL; it represents around 800 faculty, librarians, counsellors, and co-operative and field educators in collective bargaining with the university, and also advocates for members’ rights and academic freedoms. It is governed by members who volunteer for the Executive and other committees, as well as by the membership via annual general meetings.

In short, MUNFA is you, and your colleagues.

What can I do?

There are a number of actions all MUNFA members can take immediately to show their support for a fair contract.

  • Sign this letter in support of getting a fair deal in conciliation (if you’ve already signed it, ask three of your colleagues to do so).
  • Talk to your coworkers about bargaining!
  • Fill out this form to submit your non-university contact information to MUNFA (in the event of a strike or lockout MUNFA will need this information to be able to contact you).
  • Email to have a poster expressing your support for the bargaining team delivered to your office door.
  • Volunteer to act as liaison for your academic unit. Email Tannara Yelland at for more information or to volunteer.
  • Join the Contract Action Team to participate in organizing your coworkers.

What issues are outstanding?

As we approach the next conciliation dates on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, the following issues are unresolved:

  • MUNFA has proposed a four-year collective agreement (this is a typical time period) with a 14% salary increase for members, front-loaded to combat the negative impact of inflation.
    The administration has proposed annual salary increases of 2% over an unusually long six-year contract. Over the course of a more typical four-year contract, this would leave MUNFA members with only an 8% salary increase — at a time of rampant inflation, and when attracting and retaining faculty is already an issue for the university.
  • The administration has rejected proposals for improving working conditions for contract instructors.
  • The administration has rejected language intended to maintain/improve tenure/tenure-track staffing levels, including proposals for a minimum percentage of tenure/tenure-track instructors and conversion provisions to ensure that contract instructors benefit from these improvements.
  • Climate action language has been rejected.
  • The administration has rejected reduction in teaching norm to ensure all Academic Units have a norm of 4.
  • The administration has rejected the inclusion of a definition of “collegial governance” in the collective agreement.
  • The administration continues to push for a two-tier payment scheme for post-retirement health benefits, which would create a divide among MUNFA members. They are also proposing a dramatic increase to the amount of time to qualify for benefits — from two (2) to fifteen (15) years.
  • The administration has dropped their demand for post-tenure review.

What are the administration’s priorities?

Based on the proposals the administration has presented, this is what their priorities appear to be:

  • Introducing a two-tiered post-retirement benefits scheme with a dramatically increased qualifying period that will divide the union and will most directly impact contract faculty.
  • Implementing a six-year contract that will prevent MUNFA members from negotiating further improvements to your working conditions, and your pay, until 2028.
  • Rejecting any improvements for contract instructors.
  • Rejecting changes

Do we have a collective agreement currently in place?

Yes: despite expiring in August 2020, the previous collective agreement is still in effect. Clause 1.39 states: “This Collective Agreement shall remain in effect from the date of signing until such time as a new Collective Agreement is signed or until there is a strike or lockout, whichever comes first.”

Each round of bargaining is an opportunity for members to make improvements to their shared working conditions. Delays in bargaining and in implementing a new collective agreement mean delays in these improvements. This is often financially beneficial to employers, as it extends the amount of time they can avoid paying the higher salaries or increased benefits that they eventually agree to. This is why, although there is a collective agreement in effect, it is important to stress the delays to which this process has been subject.

Where are we in the collective bargaining process?

A timeline of what has happened so far:

  • November 9-10, 2022: Your bargaining team met with the administration and with the provincially appointed conciliator for a third time.
  • October 27-28, 2022: Your negotiating team met with the administration and with the provincially appointed conciliation officer for a second time.
  • September 8-9, 2022: Despite your negotiating team having made themselves available on several sets of dates in July and August, the parties held their first session with the government-appointed conciliation officer on September 8 and 9.
  • June 9, 2022: Given the administration’s unwillingness to engage on many key issues and having informed MUNFA of their limited availability over the summer months, MUNFA filed for conciliation in an attempt to move discussions on a new collective agreement forward.
  • June 8, 2022: At the bargaining table, MUNFA inquired as to when a response should be expected on monetary items and the administration indicated they would not respond at all until other matters had been resolved.
  • May 12, 2022: Despite 12 full days of bargaining over 5 months, the administration was unwilling to discuss a number of MUNFA’s proposals that they deemed “quasi-monetary.” On May 12, MUNFA made an attempt to prevent an impasse by tabling a salary proposal, indicating our desire to discuss all items of concern.
  • January 27, 2022: At the first bargaining session, MUNFA’s Negotiating Committee tabled a set of proposals focused on members’ bargaining priorities.
  • August 19, 2021: After considering feedback received from MUNFA members, and a unanimous vote of the MUNFA Executive Committee, a letter was sent to President Timmons to notify the administration that we did not accept the non-negotiable proposal and wished to commence collective bargaining.
  • June 1, 2021: MUNFA received a non-negotiable proposal from the university that would extend the existing collective agreement with modifications.
  • August 31, 2020: Collective agreement expired.
  • May 2020: Due to pandemic, MUNFA and the administration signed a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to extend the existing Collective Agreement by one (1) year, meaning either party could provide notice of their desire to bargaining a new agreement in the summer of 2021.

What is “conciliation” and what is the role of the conciliation officer?

Conciliation is a step in the collective bargaining process. If and when one side feels that there is no path to reaching an agreement, they can request that the province appoint an officer to act as a mediator between the two parties. After that point, the two sides meet with the conciliation officer (either jointly or separately), whose goal is to help them understand each other’s interests and find ways of resolving differences. The conciliation officer does not have the authority to impose a settlement but will work with the parties to try to reach a collective agreement and avoid job action.

Why have we applied for conciliation? Why did we reach an impasse?

Despite delivering our notice to bargain in August of 2021, and meeting with the university’s bargaining team for 15 full days over a 6-month period, many of MUNFA’s proposals have been left unanswered or deferred by the administration — some for months on end. The administration’s bargaining team was consistently unprepared, either to present their own proposals or to answer MUNFA’s. On June 9, after it became clear that the administration would not respond to our salary proposal and many other key priorities, MUNFA requested that the province appoint a conciliator. MUNFA’s decision to request a conciliator demonstrates our interest in reaching a fair deal at the table.

What happens if we don’t reach a deal at conciliation?

If the administration and MUNFA are unable to reach an agreement at the conciliation table on a deal that will be fair for MUNFA members, the next step would be to request that the conciliation officer file a board report. Fifteen days after the Ministry of Labour receives that report, then the administration would be in a position to lock MUNFA members out, and MUNFA would be in a position to hold a strike vote and, thereafter, potentially go on strike.

It is worth noting here that holding a strike vote is a normal part of the collective bargaining process in Canada — it is not aggressive or out of line, it is simply how the system works. A strong strike vote with a high percentage of members participating shows the administration that they will need to sit down at the table and reach a fair deal — or even sit down at the table and discuss the issues, which they have so far avoided in several cases. Whether you are willing to go on strike or not, it is in your interest to vote yes if we get to that point. (David Doorey, an expert on Canadian labour law, outlines the reasons for this in this blog post.)

Why is MUNFA adopting a transparent bargaining process, and what does that mean?

For MUNFA, ‘transparent bargaining’ means that members will have access to information about bargaining as it happens. That is why we have held membership-wide meetings directly after each conciliation meeting, and will continue to do so. Interest has been high, and increasing at each meeting. Remember to tell your colleagues about them!

This shift is important because the disruptions of the pandemic and the length of time it has taken to make headway in these proceedings have made it exceedingly difficult for members to understand what is happening at the negotiating table where the document affecting their working lives is being decided on. Members need to be actively involved in order to show the university’s administration that they must make a fair deal, and in order to have an active membership, it is important that they understand what they are fighting for and how that fight is developing.

What is the timeline?

Right now, the timeline is not clear. MUNFA remains committed to reaching a deal at the conciliation table if this is at all possible. The most recent conciliation dates were on Oct. 27 and 28. The next session has been confirmed and will take place on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. If no headway is made at the table in the next set of dates, it is possible the conciliator will file a no board report.

A meeting open to all members follows each conciliation meeting; check here for upcoming meeting dates and to register.

What are MUNFA’s bargaining priorities?

MUNFA’s top priorities are:

  • Working conditions for contract instructors: MUNFA’s proposals include increasing the minimum length for term appointments; expanding and strengthening conversion language; ensuring that ASMs can use their PDTR funds to support research; and ensuring the university prioritizes appointing ASMs into Regular Term Appointments as opposed to Teaching Term Appointments.
  • Faculty complement: The dwindling number of tenure-stream instructors is an issue of concern for MUNFA members across disciplines and departments. It makes members’ workload untenable, forces members to take on more and more administrative work while having less time for research and teaching, and impacts the quality of education members can provide to students. MUNFA is proposing language to ensure a certain proportion of term appointments are Regular Term Appointments whose duties include service and research; a certain proportion of ASMs in any one Academic Unit are tenure/tenure-track appointments; and a certain proportion of courses at the university are taught by MUNFA members.
  • Equity, diversity, and inclusion: This includes improving the university’s collection of equity data, expanding on previous gains regarding Promotion & Tenure language, making improvements to the length and pay of different types of leave, and mandating the university adhere to universal design principles in the construction and renovation of campus spaces.
  • Indigenization: MUNFA recognizes that existing definitions of scholarship are rooted in western academic disciplinary traditions and plans to introduce language to recognize and value Indigenous knowledge and ways of teaching and learning.
  • Salary: MUNFA members have not received an across-the-board raise since 2016. The rate of inflation over that time has in effect cut members’ pay somewhere in the range of 18%, according to the Bank of Canada. MUNFA is proposing a 14% raise over the length of the next contract. This will not catch up with inflation today, let alone by the time the agreement expires. While MUNFA members deserve a raise that actually keeps up with inflation, we feel that this proposal is more than fair — and is the least members can accept. Competitive salaries are also important for attracting and retaining top scholars so that the university can provide the best possible education for its students — and MUNL lags significantly in comparison to what comparable universities are paying their faculty. What MUNFA members are asking for is both a raise to defray some of the increased costs of living and an investment in the quality of students’ education.
  • Climate action: MUNFA is looking for commitments from the university to address the climate crisis and incentives for ride sharing, public transit, cycling, and all forms of active transportation to/from and across campuses.

How were MUNFA members involved in the development of these priorities?

In 2021, MUNFA members were asked in a membership survey about the workplace issues that they were most affected by and most concerned about. The answers to this question informed the development of these priorities.

What have we gained so far?

  • Changes to Promotion and Tenure Language to recognize Indigenous knowledge.
  • Removal of “superior performance” for early-tenure applications.
  • Updated equity language, although nothing monetary committed (e.g. better birthing/parental leave, course remissions for EDI purposes).
  • Commitment to considering principles of Universal Design when constructing/renovating buildings.
  • No reference to CEQs to be included in a Promotion and Tenure file.
  • Increased transparency in the Search Process when the University shares candidate files with individuals/parties outside the Academic Unit.

Is MUNFA going to go on strike? Why?

It’s unclear so far if conciliation will result in a deal that members support. If it does, then no strike action will be needed. If the university’s administration refuses to make a fair deal for MUNFA members, then members will meet, discuss the idea of going on strike, and if necessary take a strike vote.

It’s important to keep in mind that the reason for a strike would be to get a fair deal for MUNFA members, and that the decision to go on strike is a democratic one undertaken by members. It’s also important to keep in mind that a strong vote in favour of a strike, if and when such a vote is taken, is a powerful bargaining chip — it shows the administration that members are united and not ready to back down. If we come to a strike vote in this round of bargaining, a strong turnout and strong vote for a strike can actually be one of the best deterrents to going on strike.