1. What happens if we reject the Arbitration offer?
The proposals listed in point 6 of the MOA (both SFU and TSSU proposals) would be returned to the bargaining table (i.e. not withdrawn). TSSU would continue to strike (withholding grades), as well as discussing other ways to pressure the employer into a reasonable settlement. We would return to the bargaining table to try and find a way to reach agreement with the Employer. Benefits would be cancelled by November 1st, except for those benefits the Union is able to afford to pay for. The TSSU argues that we can pay for some but not all. The Employer says that we must pay for all. Eventually the Labour Relations Board would have to make the final decision.
2. What happens if we accept the Arbitration offer?
The Strike Committee will advise you when strike activity will cease; that could come as soon as October 29th. The grades for this semester would be entered into the system or provided to course instructors as usual. The process for returning last semester’s grades is outlined in a Back to Work agreement (which only applies if TSSU members approve this MOA). Starting on October 29th, TSSU and SFU Administration would commence a 21 day period of bargaining. If any issue remains outstanding at the end of that period, (November 18, 2015), they will be decided by Final Offer Selection, Arbitrated by Vince Ready.
3. What is Final Offer Selection (FOS)?
FOS is a type of arbitration, it’s a binding process to resolve a dispute. What makes FOS unique is that the arbitrator chooses a proposal from either the employer or the union, but cannot craft a “middle ground”.
4. If we stop job action, how do we pressure meaningful bargaining before the FOS arbitration?
Even though job action would cease, we still have lots of tools at our disposal to pressure the process. We can hold demonstrations, invite observers to bargaining, and continue to get the word out in a multitude of ways in order to hold the process accountable.
5. What is the point of the “bargaining period”?
Knowing that there is an arbitration at the end of the time frame can often pressure one side or the other to reach agreement in advance of the referral to arbitration. It is conceivable that all issues will be resolved, thus precluding the need for an arbitration. At a minimum we should see some narrowing of the issues, bringing us closer to agreement.
6. What does the actual arbitration involve?
The party making the proposal will have to make a written submission. The party answering will make a written reply. Following these submissions the arbitrator will decide either to accept one package or the other, or to pick issue by issue from each position.
7. Why is the Contract Committee and the Strike Committee recommending this?
- As the FOS Arbitrator, Vince Ready, said when he proposed this process: “bargaining has not gone well with these parties following 16 months of negotiations along with two mediation efforts.” Our progress thus far in bargaining has been small, despite tremendous efforts by our members to withhold grades over two semesters.
- We believe that we can reasonably expect the same or better outcomes from FOS, as if we continued to bargain. However, the cost of losing benefits, and potentially being locked out, must be weighed against any potential gain we can make by bargaining and job action versus this arbitration route. If our employer had conducted themselves more reasonably in the bargaining process, we would have achieved a fair settlement by now.
- The government wage guidelines (which have ruled throughout all of the government funded public sector to date) mean that the monetary settlement is going to be completely insufficient to address inflation and the monetary situation of our members, no matter what route we take to a settlement. This means that there is little to be gained, and much to lose if we just simply go back to the bargaining table, without an end to the process in sight.
8. If we say yes, what happens to the grades from the summer?
We have negotiated a back to work agreement. In that agreement it sets out how the grades will be accessed by the members, and that you are to be paid for any work you have to do to ensure that the grades are entered.
9. What else does the back to work agreement do?
It protects you from any consequences occurring for you as a result of engaging in strike activity, and allows us to ensure the orderly processing of grades, either through your input, or through giving them to the employer to deal with, should that become necessary.