The union representing part-time faculty at Dalhousie has filed a Bargaining in Bad Faith complaint against the university.
The complaint revolves around the status of part-time faculty at the ag school in Truro. On July 1, 2012, the former Nova Scotia Agricultural College became Dalhousie’s Faculty of Agriculture. When they were working at the Agriculture College, part-time faculty were unrepresented.
CUPE Local 3912 president Steve Cloutier says the university administration does acknowledge part-timers in Truro could eventually become part of the union — “Dalhousie has said that they will accept us going out and organizing those members” — but says such organizing shouldn’t be necessary. Faculty at the Agricultural Campus are Dalhousie faculty. They’re also part time; therefore, they should be part of the Union that represents part-time faculty at Dalhousie. “They’re automatically part of our collective bargaining unit,” says Cloutier. “They are our members”
The union and the administration held two meetings with a provincially-appointed conciliation officer in November and one meeting in February. Conciliation is used when a deal is elusive, and is usually successful, says CUPE national representative Marianne Welsh. “The majority of collective agreements are concluded through the use of a conciliation officer.”
After the third meeting, the Union made the decision to file a complaint. “The employer didn’t budge on its position so that’s when the decision was made to file the bad faith bargaining complaint,” says Welsh.
The collective agreement between CUPE local 3912 and Dalhousie already excludes some workers from the union, says Welsh. But the bargaining process is not the place to establish further exclusions, she says. That role is for the Labour Board. By delaying the bargaining process by holding a position that seeks to exclude a group from the bargaining unit, Dalhousie is therefore bargaining in bad faith.
“When an employer maintains a position on a matter that can be dealt with elsewhere [i.e., at the Labour Board], that’s where the bad faith bargaining starts,” she says.
The grievance will now go before the Labour Board. Cloutier says this process removes union representatives from the position of having to bargain away the rights of their members. “I want the Labour Board to tell me, and if the Labour Board tells me they’re not our members I’m happy,” he says. “Then I’ll go and organize them.”
“They’re CUPE 3912 members until someone says that they’re not,” echoes Welsh. “We’re not going to say that they’re not, because the union’s position would be that we would want to represent all the employees within the scope.”
If part-timers in Truro are part of the union, then they should get the same pay and benefits as their 1,600 counterparts in Halifax, says Welsh. “One of the reasons why we’re holding firm to this is, Why should part-time faculty in a particular area be denied the financial benefits of being a member of local 3912?”
It’s unclear when exactly the grievance will go before the Board, says Welsh. But in the meanwhile, there’s still room for the administration to “come to its senses.”
“I believe the union’s position is very strong,” says Welsh.